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God Created Everything With Good Purpose

“And God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

Today we spend much of our time staring at screens marveling at our own magnificence. We are inveterate humanists. “Man is the measure of all things.” Is it any wonder atheism is on the rise? For thousands of years humans stared at the stars and were convinced that heaven and earth was created by God (or gods). We have removed ourselves from the beauty and grandeur of nature, and surrounded ourselves with human artifices. I would encourage you to go outside; leave your mobile device behind; turn off your technology; take off your headphones. Immerse yourself in nature by taking a walk in the forest, or by the lake. Get away from the city lights and stare at the awe inspiring night sky.  

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky displays his handiwork”  (Psalm 19:1).

“Earth’s crammed with heaven, 

And every common bush afire with God, 

But only he who sees takes off his shoes;

The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

God speaks through his creation. The question is: are you paying attention? There is order and complexity evident everywhere from the smallest wildflowers to the Grand Tetons, from moss growing on the slick rocks of Slide Rock in Sedona, Arizona to the giant blue whales swimming in the Pacific Ocean. Design is evident everywhere, from the human eye to the giraffe’s neck, from your immune system to the bacterial and viral infections  it is marshaled to fight. Design evinces a Designer.

The universe was created, and the Creator had a purpose in mind when he made it: people. Human beings are seen as the crown of God’s creation in the Genesis account. We are the only creatures made in God’s own image.

“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27, NASB95)

Mediocrity

 It was once believed that earth was at the center of the cosmos, until scientists observed that there is no center, nor edges, in the universe. In fact, earth is not at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, not even in our own little solar system. Copernicus is usually credited with the discovery that we occupy a heliocentric (solar) system. This led scientists to posit the so-called Copernican Principle. Some call it the principle of mediocrity: earth is not special; it is an unremarkable planet revolving around a small star at the edge of one galaxy among some two hundred billion estimated to exist in the universe. Looking at things from that perspective could certainly persuade someone to regard us as insignificant creatures. Couple that with the conclusion of evolution— life appeared spontaneously and evolved randomly over  millions of years to finally result in human beings—and you may well feel like the teacher in the Bible’s book of Ecclesiastes, who said, “‘Absolute futility,’ says the Teacher. ‘Absolute futility. Everything is futile.’” (Ecclesiastes 1:2, CSB) The Teacher believed in the existence of God, but it doesn’t appear he had a any relationship with the Creator, other than a distant reverence and a wise willingness to keep his commands.

However, the principle of mediocrity is not hard science, but a matter of perspective which betrays the bias of underlying assumptions like naturalism and atheism. There is design evident in the universe. It is finely tuned, astonishingly so. What is “fine tuning,” and why does it matter so much? Depending upon how it is evaluated, and which cosmologist is doing the calculation, there are as many as 93 fine tuning parameters essential for our complex-life sustaining planet to have come about. Let’s look at two of these parameters.

Gravity

First, I want to give credit to Astronomer Dr. Hugh Ross for the following information. The gravitational constant represents the relative strength of gravity. If the constant moved one direction, then gravity would be stronger, the other and it would be weaker. If gravity were even slightly stronger, matter would clump together too tightly, and stars would be too hot and burn out too quickly. If gravity were weaker, matter would not clump together enough, and stars would be far too cool. The result of this would be a lack of heavy elements necessary to form planets, since those elements come from the furnace of stars. To understand how delicate the fine tuning of the Gravitational Constant is, let’s look at an example given by Lee Strobel in the film Case for a Creator. Strobel asks us to imagine a ruler marked with one inch increments, which is then stretched all the way across the known universe. The Gravitational Constant could be marked anywhere on this imaginary ruler, but for life to exist anywhere in the universe it can only be in one precise one inch location. Move the Gravitational Constant even one inch in either direction and you and I wouldn’t exist. Is it just a coincidence that gravity is so perfectly balanced for life? Remember, this is only one fine tuning parameter of 93 essential for you and I to exist.  Let’s look at one more.

Size of the Universe

At the beginning of this chapter I encouraged you to get away from the city  lights and look at the stars in the sky. It is a magnificent sight, but it could also make you feel insignificant. Have you ever wondered why the universe is so big? This involves two parameters: 1) the total mass of the universe, and 2) the amount of empty space in the universe. Both of these must be fine tuned with infinitesimal precision in order for complex, intelligent life to exist anywhere, ever.

Once again, I credit the following information and examples to Dr. Hugh Ross. The mass of the universe is so critical that if at the beginning there had been even the mass of one dime added or subtracted from it, the balance of the observable universe would have been thrown off and no physical life would now be possible. One thin dime. That seems pretty insignificant on its own, but that tiny dime matters.

Ever wonder why there’s so much space in space? Why is the universe so vast, so spread out? Since the amount of matter in the universe cannot be more or less than it is, we turn to another fine tuning parameter the Rate of Cosmic Expansion. The universe has been expanding since the Big Bang event, and that expansion has had to be precise for life to exist. In fact, the rate of expansion cannot differ by one part in ten to the 60th power—that’s a ten with 60 zeroes after it! If the rate of expansion slowed by even that incomprehensibly small fraction, there would be less space, and the universe would have collapsed back on itself before stars formed. Planets form after, and as a result of, stars. People come last, so you wouldn’t be grappling with the difficult questions we’re seeking to answer if the Rate of Cosmic Expansion were different because none of us would exist. Yet here we are.

Gravity is perfect. The amount of matter is perfect. The amount of space in the universe is perfect. There are 90 more parameters. When you look at this it definitely seems like there’s intelligence and power behind the existence of the universe. 

“As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency—or, rather, Agency—must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?”  George Greenstein, astrophysicist

Finally, let’s turn to our own little “insignificant” planet. According to scientists who subscribe to the Copernican Principle of mediocrity, there are probably millions of planets like ours, and the universe must be teeming with life. The underlying assumption of these scientists is that the universe and life has come about as a result of random natural and material processes. Science doesn’t look to God because science is a method of discovering how the natural world works. It is a grave error to presume that this means there is nothing beyond the natural world. In fact, as we are observing, the existence and order of the cosmos points to a Creator beyond the material universe, who powerfully brought it into existence and crafted it carefully.

In the book Privileged Planet, astro-biologist Guillermo Gonzales lists multiple factors necessary for a planet in our universe to support complex life. So, what is necessary for a planet to be “insignificant” like ours? It must have liquid water, be terrestrial (have land), have the proper ratio of liquid water and continents, have carbon, have an oxygen rich atmosphere, have a magnetic field, plate tectonics, must be orbiting a main sequence G2 dwarf star (yes, that’s our little sun!),  have a moderate rate of rotation, be protected by gas giant planets (yep, that’s our Saturn and Jupiter!), be within a galactic habitable zone (most of the galaxy is quite dangerous), be in a circumstellar habitable zone (most of the solar system is too hot or too cold for life), must be orbited by a large moon (yea, moon!). So, after reading through those (if you did!), what do you think the likelihood would be for the existence of other complex-life supporting planets like our “unremarkable” earth? Gonzales’s conclusion is, Not Very Likely At All.

“Given the recent trends in the planetary sciences, perhaps we should begin to view Earth and its immediate surroundings not as a carbon copy of systems bound to arise whenever stars and planets form, but as a finely tuned, interdependent system that together nurtures a strange little oasis.”  (Jay Richards and Guillermo Gonzales, Privileged Planet)

Human thinking has been wrong. It doesn’t matter where our planet stands in relation to a physical center. In a universe like ours that is relative and irrelevant. What is relevant is the why of our existence. Science cannot answer that question. In fact, some scientists eschew it altogether. Richard Dawkins calls is a stupid question. Yet it is the fundamental question of every searching human mind. Why? 

“Though man is not the physical center of the universe, he appears to be at the center of its purpose.” (Augros & Stanciu in The New Story of Science as quoted in Case for a Creator)

“And yet as we stand gazing at the heavens beyond our little oasis, we gaze not into a meaningless abyss but int a wondrous arena… a universe so skillfully crafted for life and discovery that it seems to whisper of an extra-terrestrial intelligence immeasurably more vast, more ancient, and more magnificent than anything we’ve been willing to expect or imagine.” (Guillermo Gonzales and Jay Richards, Privileged Planet)

Why is a question for which only God can provide a satisfactory answer, but he has given us the curiosity and capability to seek, and when we seek God we will find him if we seek him with all of our hearts. God’s first book is the creation, written long before the Bible. It is incomplete as a source for revealing the Creator’s personal attributes. However, the cosmos clearly points to the existence of a supernatural, powerful intelligence who brought it all into existence. I would encourage you to read the book of Creation it daily.

10 Rules to Losing Fat

  1. Keep a food log & count calories. 
  2. Lower your caloric intake. Calculate what you need to maintain your present weight and reduce that by 500/day. Be aware you will need fewer calories as your weight decreases, and your body will learn to maintain on fewer calories as well, which is why the rest of this list is important.
  3. Count carbs and keep them at no more than 10-15% of your overall caloric intake. One carb = 4.5 calories
  4. Stop drinking sugar water! That means drop the soda, sweet tea, Monsters, Red Bulls and any other drink that is primarily sugar and water.
  5. Stop drinking alcohol. Alcohol inhibits the liver’s ability to convert fat to blood glucose.
  6. Lose the starch and bread. No pasta, no potatoes, no tortillas, no sandwiches with bread. Substitute lettuce wraps for bread/tortillas.
  7. Track your activity, and increase it. Various devices will do this: your phone, Fit Bit, Apple or Samsung watches etc.
  8. Exercise 30 minutes per day 5-6 days per week. Run, brisk walk, swim, karate’, bike riding, weightlifting etc.
  9. Practice intermittent fasting. Stop eating at sundown, or no later than 8pm. Don’t eat anything (NOTHING) until at least 13 hours have passed. Vary between this and 16, 18, up to 20 hours of fasting.
  10. NO CHEAT DAYS. One cheat day can easily destroy an entire week’s worth of work.

Get Lean in 2021

From Sunday, January 3rd until Sunday February 13th I’m running a motivational contest to help folks drop some excess body fat. The person who loses the highest percentage of their body fat will win. So, not raw body fat, but as the amount lost compares to your overall. For example, I’ve balooned to around 16%. If I lose down to 12%, that reflects a 25% drop in my body fat. Someone with 28% body fat would have to drop 7% to equal my loss, while a person with 12% would need to lose 3%. This makes the playing field level, and makes the competition primarily with the individual.

Here’s my plan to drop down to 12% in six weeks, with an eventual goal of hitting 10.

1) Count calories. No matter what diet you’re on, your body requires a certain amount of energy to maintain. Calories are not perfect, but they are a measure of the energy I’m ingesting. At my age and current weight I need around 2400 calories per day to maintain. I use a free app called MyPlate to enter my food & drink. It also estimates my caloric needs based on the goal entered. I’ve overestimated the number of pounds I want to lose per week by entering two (rather than my goal of 1.5). This should help cover for entry and miscalculation errors. At this point I must not exceed 1692 calories per 24 hours.

2) Don’t drink alcohol. I like craft beer and a good margarita. Alcohol inhibits fat loss by keeping the liver peoccupied with transforming it from its toxic state into (potentially) beneficial blood sugar.

3) Don’t cheat. One cheat day will EASILY undo a week of hard work.

4) Intermittent fasting. This makes the lower calorie intake easier and reduces or eliminates insulin resistance. This means as my baseline I stop ingesting calories at 6pm and don’t eat or drink anything but water, herbal tea (night) and black coffee (morning) until noon the next day. That’s an 18 hour fast. To keep it intermittent (somewhat random) I’ll drink a protein drink before morning weight workouts at around 10am, which equals a 16 hour fast. Occasionally (once a week or so) I’ll go until 2pm or 4pm before I take in calories.

6) Keep carbs below 20-25% of overall calories, which equals 85-100 per day.

7) Work out 30-45 minutes per day, six days a week. For me this breaks down as three weight workouts and three cardio workouts. I lift, practice karate, run the treadmill.
This works. I’ve done it. In 2017 I dropped to 5.3% Now, you set some goals and get to work too!

Cats, Rats and a Pandemic

Cats Rats and Sheltering

A study was conducted regarding the fear rats have of cats. Even the scent of a cat drives a rat into panic. In the presence of a cat near a rat burrow a sentry rat will stick its nose out and scream ultrasonically for upwards of 48 hours, which keeps the other rats sheltering in fear, deep in the burrow.

Right now we hear relentless screaming about the pandemic by politicians and their  media allies: STAY INSIDE, STAY SAFE! Daily the pandemic is proving to be far less deadly than was originally forecast, but the fearful sentries continue to scream as though we’re all going to die unless we do what the government says. There’s a cat out there, to be sure, but we’re being led to believe it is crouched in front of the burrow ready to strike anyone who comes outside. The truth is far different. The cat is out there. However, it is further from the burrow than we’ve been led to believe. Perhaps we could say the smell of it is being driven toward the fearful screamers by political fans. The reality is, cats have always been a threat. If the healthy go out and are careful, the overwhelming majority will escape, and can bring food back to the weak. However, we cannot all remain in the burrow, friends. We cannot. Recent estimates are that upwards of 500 million people in the world will soon descend into abject poverty, and many millions will starve. The screaming needs to stop.

Letter 2 to Lifewell Church from Pastor D

Dear Lifewell family,

These are challenging times. I am not worried. In fact, I am constantly encouraged by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. I want to pass that along to you. I am your pastor, so I am trying to watch over you, even though I don’t get to see you (many of you anyhow). You can make that easier by paying attention online. I realize there are many distractions, many voices, many choices. Please pay attention to several avenues of contact from me to you:

1) Mass texts. If you’re not on our list for some reason, text the word LIFEWELL to 940 00. Also, I’ve started a regular Bible verse group. Those in the group will receive about a text per day with encouraging or challenging Bible passages that I believe are God’s message for us right now. To join that group text THEWORD to 940 00.

2) Facebook. Most of you are on Facebook. Most of you likely just scroll, rather than being intentional about what you view or where you visit. Make a choice to regularly visit our church Facebook Page. If you’re not following it yet, it’s Lifewell Church. Go there and follow it. Visit the Lifewell Members group. If you’re not in that group, do a search, request to be one, or just message me personally. Are you one of my friends on Facebook. If not, request me. Do you follow my Facebook page? If not, do so now. I’m not interested in winning a popularity contest, but I need to be able to communicate with you regularly.

Facebook is also a great place for you to share GOOD NEWS, not doom and gloom, not hatred, anger and fear-mongering rumors. We are the city set on a hill, let’s shine!

3) YouTube. This is VERY important right now. You need to find my YouTube.com/deorl channel and Subscribe. Our worship will happen live on YouTube every Sunday at 11 AM. You really need to be able to watch on a larger screen. In all likelihood that’s your TV. If you have a smart TV, then you should have YouTube access. The least expensive way to get access if you don’t is to buy a Roku stick. This device costs about $35. I set one up for Vernon to watch our services when he was no longer able to attend personally, and he was able to navigate to us each week once I subscribed to my channel.

Recruit some family, friends, other members of Lifewell, or neighbors to come to your house and watch the service with you! We can meet with 10 people at a time (actually, it would be legal to meet with up to 50, but 10 is the current recommendation). So, put 10 people in front of your TV and actually worship together! The service will be shorter online than it is live. I estimate under an hour. It is likely it will be closer to 50-55 minutes. 

If 10 of you each had 10 people in their house, that would be more folks than we usually see downstairs on Sunday. I think more of you can do this. Our church could actually grow during this time! Please take this seriously. Really make the effort to reach out, in person and online.

Pastor Craig had a great idea concerning our online worship. If ALL OF US SHARED THAT THE SERVICE IS AVAILABLE, then we could reach out to more people than we ever have on Sunday! Will you do this? Start at about 10AM Sunday, and text, message, post that people can join us at YouTube.com/deorl at 11AM, Then remind them when it starts. This was Craig’s idea. If you have a better strategy in mind, USE IT. Can you imagine if we saw hundreds or even a thousand or more people watching with us! We need you, Lifewell people, to have faith and make this effort!

I realize our live webcast has suffered at times due to internet dropouts. That’s why I have had a separate dedicated service installed downstairs and I am not relying on wifi access to it. The Streamer is wired in. That should result in HD quality and great audio without buffering and pausing, or generally unwatchable video. Please pray this works!

4) lifewellchurch.com Our website will be updated regularly. You may give from there, the worship is streamed live there (YouTube is embedded, so it’s the same as going directly to my channel), and the latest worship info will always be available. I may make other tools available there too. I used to podcast my teaching. If that would be helpful to you, please let me know; I’ll be happy to do so again.

5) deorl.com That’s my blog, which you’re reading right now, by the way! I will be writing longer messages and posting them there. Follow me on WordPress and you’ll get emails notifying you when I post something.

I love you. I pray for you. Please make it easier for me to help you and teach you and encourage you. Follow the steps above now.You are always welcome to call me. If you don’t have my number, message me on Facebook or get it from another member. God bless. “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of your God!” (Exodus 14:13).

Peace and Truth;

Pastor Darryl Hall

Lifewell Church

Open Letter to Lifewell Church from Pastor D

Dear Lifewell,

Peace and truth to you!

I am writing to encourage and challenge you during the present crisis. The prophet Isaiah said to Israel, and so to those of us who have been grafted into the olive tree and adopted into his family, “Rise! Shine! Your light has come, and the glory of the Lord will shine upon you. Though darkness, even deep darkness cover the earth, the light of the LORD will shine upon you, and His glory will be seen upon you” (60:1-2). The Lord Jesus told his disciples, and so you and me, not to hide their light beneath a basket but to put it up on the table so everyone can see. The Lord said we are a city set on a hill. Our church was once known as Zion because we wanted to be like Jerusalem, the city of God’s people sitting on a hill. The change to Lifewell is was not a change in that hope, or mission.

Now is our time to shine, Lifewell! All around you people are in fear. Why? It is being stirred up by the Great Fear-monger himself, the enemy of our souls, Satan. He is using many tools, but I want you to understand, to realize fully, that we have nothing to fear! I spoke to those gathered yesterday about this. Many of you were absent, so I would encourage you to view that message (if you haven’t already). It’s up on our website right now, and will be archived on my youtube.com/deorl. Fear is the opposite of faith. Fear is darkness. Jesus is the light of the world. Jesus offers hope, and that’s what people need to see coming from us. 

In order to shine you need to come out from beneath the bed or the table. Put the light of Jesus up where everyone can see it. What does that mean? Trust God and encourage your family, friends and co-workers to do the same. Tell everyone that God is in control, even when the world seems out of control. Share the good news about Jesus, and the hope of eternal life with everyone. If you’re on social media, refuse to be negative, refuse to be hostile or hateful. People need to see that we are confident and courageous. The very idea of Lifewell is for us to live in such a way that others recognize us as different, positive, life-giving.

It is imperative that we live under the inspiration of the indwelling Holy Spirit, moment by moment, all day long. Don’t do anything, don’t post anything, don’t say anything, until and unless you sense the Holy Spirit leading. If you never have that sense, you don’t have relationship with Jesus! “You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him.” (Romans 8:9, CSB) How do you make decisions? What made you stay home yesterday, or go to church? Why did you worship with us, or fail to? It’s possible to be at church and not enter in to worship! We must make these decisions on the basis of faith. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Where do you think that assurance and conviction comes from? It is the Holy Spirit seeking to convict your spirit. Are you paying attention? If the Holy Spirit convicts you to avoid a certain place, or take a different route home, or not to be around someone, or to share with someone, or not to say what you really want to, you must obey.

God will protect us, Lifewell, but we have to pay attention to his leading, not the speculation and prognostication of politicians and the media. Faith follows facts and truth. Faith is the organ of spiritual sight. Faith must be your response to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). We must abide in Christ, remain in Him, stay close to Him, and that equals being filled with the Holy Spirit and following His lead as He moves on your spirit. “Walk by the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh…If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16 & 25).

The present crisis is a test of your faith and faithfulness. Will you pass? Are you failing? We are guaranteed victory, so raise your hands and the Lord will lift you out of your depression, doubt and fear! “We overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us!” (Romans 8:37). Everything will be ok, friends, so long as you love God and pursue His purpose. In fact, everything will be better than ok, we will come out stronger, better and more like our Lord! “All things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

I love you, and pray for you. I hope you will pray for me, and I hope to see you soon!

In Truth;

Pastor Darryl

The Day You Stopped Living

Do you know when you quit believing in me?

I remember the day you stopped living.

It’s dark now, but it was sunny that day

when you walked away.

You thought I held you back,

but only I held you close,

even while you kicked and screamed.

You believed you could set yourself free,

and so, finally, I let you go.

Prodigal.

Free thought fills a fevered mind:

Infected heart, swollen with self love.

Do you realize what you’ve become?

The walking dead.

Zombie.

But my body is true food,

and my blood is true drink,

my body that was broken,

and my blood poured out

for you.

I’m still here.

I still love you,

and even though you don’t believe

in me.

I believe

in you.

And I love you,

although you don’t live for me.

I died,

so you could really live.

Come home.

1/11 – 3/11

All right, I just finished a workout, drinking black coffee in the cafe at the gym. Cheated my way into the new year, now I’m motivated to make a change by my birthday in 60 days. I rolled into 2020 with more muscle mass, which was my goal for 2019, but I also have 5-7% more body fat than I want. So, it’s back to cutting down & getting lean. To motivate you and keep me accountable, here is my goal and the means I’ll achieve it.

At the beginning of 2020 I weighed in at 158lbs (I got as high as 161). That’s 12-16% body fat (depending upon which tool I use to measure it). I’ll call it 14%. I want to be at around 7%. If I retain the same muscle mass, that will make my target weight 147, so I’ll work to drop 11 lbs in 60 days. That equals a loss of 1.37 lbs per week, so I’ll aim at losing a pound and a half per week.

Here’s how I’ll achieve that.

1) Count calories. No matter what diet you’re on, your body requires a certain amount of energy to maintain. Calories are not perfect, but they are a measure of the energy I’m ingesting. At my age and current weight I need around 2400 calories per day to maintain. I use a free app called MyPlate to enter my food & drink. It also estimates my caloric needs based on the goal entered. I’ve overestimated the number of pounds I want to lose per week by entering two (rather than my goal of 1.5). This should help cover for entry and miscalculation errors. At this point I must not exceed 1692 calories per 24 hours.

2) Don’t drink alcohol. I like craft beer and a good margarita. Alcohol inhibits fat loss by keeping the liver peoccupied with transforming it from its toxic state into (potentially) beneficial blood sugar.

3) Don’t cheat. One cheat day will EASILY undo a week of hard work.

4) Intermittent fasting. This makes the lower calorie intake easier and reduces or eliminates insulin resistance. This means as my baseline I stop ingesting calories at 6pm and don’t eat or drink anything but water, herbal tea (night) and black coffee (morning) until noon the next day. That’s an 18 hour fast. To keep it intermittent (somewhat random) I’ll drink a protein drink before morning weight workouts at around 10am, which equals a 16 hour fast. Occasionally (once a week or so) I’ll go until 2pm or 4pm before I take in calories.

6) Keep carbs below 20-25% of overall calories, which equals 85-100 per day.

7) Work out 30-45 minutes per day, six days a week. For me this breaks down as three weight workouts and three cardio workouts. I lift, practice karate, run the treadmill.

This works. I’ve done it. In 2017 I dropped to 5.3% body fat. I’m well north of 50 years old now. I intend to stay at around 7% which will make 150 lbs my new high weight, (141 is the lowest I’ll go). My waist will be 29. Watch me work! Now, you set some goals and get to work too!

Radical Economy of Grace

“You reap what you sow…”

“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth..”

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Karma.

These are all expressions of the Law of Reciprocity. It is the ruling principle for economic and social relationships in the natural world.

Jesus came to radically reverse the economy of the world system. In order to do this, He had to pay the massive debt owed by every person as the result of sin.  “The wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a). Jesus cancelled the sin debt by enduring the pain of suffering and death of crucifixion. The new economy is based upon grace and mercy. Jesus Christ paid all debts with His act of love on the cross and provided a superabundant fund of good merit from which anyone may draw when they put faith in Christ.

The natural world is primarily ruled by “balanced reciprocity,” which is: “the direct exchange of goods of approximately equal value within a relatively narrow period of time” (Green, “The Gospel of Luke” from The New International Commentary series, p. 202). Next there is “generalized reciprocity”. This is found among the members of a family—usually parents and children, but in some cultures and instances the extended family as well. In generalized reciprocity, “the exchange is essentially one sided, altruistic, the giving of a gift without explicit stipulations for any reciprocation in kind” (ibid. p. 202).

Jesus taught His disciples to invert the world system, to extend generalized reciprocity beyond the trusted boundary of family into the hostile territory of our enemies. As Jesus’ disciples we are to love our enemies by doing good to them, praying for them and blessing them, even though they may curse us. This is no lofty, unattainable ideal for super-Christians, it is Christ’s expectation for all of His followers all of the time. It is central to the life called “Christian”. If this teaching of Jesus were heeded seriously, it could radically transform every society and culture where there are Christ-followers.

How can we do this? Is Jesus calling us to be dishonored doormats? He is calling us to be like Himself. As the Roman soldiers drove the nails into His hands, Christ prayed, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Yet how will we have the courage to do this? Jesus said, “if someone takes your coat, do not stop him from taking your shirt. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes something from you do not demand it back” (Luke 6:29-30 contemporized by Pastor D). Do I have to give up all of my possessions simply because immoral people demand them? Do you open up your home to anyone who is homeless? Should we to spend all of our leisure time “going the second mile” for ungrateful people (see Matthew’s version of Jesus’ message, in 5:41)?  Who will protect me?  Who will take care of my needs?  That is exactly the point: the Father will provide for and protect me. I must follow the Holy Spirit’s conviction.

I don’t just give without thought. I pray. I must abide in Christ. I ask for wisdom from His Holy Spirit before I act rashly, or refuse to act on the basis of self-protection and selfish motives. I act: 1) in obedience to Christ’s command, 2) with discretion from the Holy Spirit, and 3) in the true best interest of the other, whether friend or foe, family or outsider, honest or criminal. This is God’s agape’ love. We can do this because we have a God and Father who promises to repay and care for us. In fact, when we act in obedience to Christ’s command and teaching, we are abiding in Him and thereby actively placing ourselves in the care and favor of His Almighty Father, and ours (cf. John 15:5-10, Psalm 41:1-3, Isaiah 58:1-10).

“Give and it will be given to you…”

The way the world works when it concerns money or the use of any material resource is this: Get as much as you can. Invest in whomever or whatever will bring you the most profit. Giving is foolish. Why give your money to someone who hasn’t earned it, or who will do nothing for you?

The way God’s Kingdom works is different. Giving is investing. It is investing in a person who needs help, or in a church that promotes God’s love and preaches the Good News. The person who gives from a cheerful heart to a holy cause relies on God, not human beings, to bring the increase.

I believe that when I represent Christ and tip a waiter or other service person, I will receive an increase from God. When I give assistance to a person in genuine need, God will reimburse me and bless me over and above my gift. When I tithe to my church, I am demonstrating my trust in God’s provision and promise regarding money.

If human beings were in touch with God and allowed their hearts to be their guide, government welfare programs would be largely unused. There would be less poverty. They would follow the primitive Christian example: sell property (or valuable possessions) and give the money to help the needy among them. It was a sort of voluntary communism. Christ-followers weren’t forced to do this, they chose to do it to help their brothers and sisters. 

Now, I’d say there would be no poverty if we all followed the leading of our hearts and listened to God, but I realize that what Jesus said remains true. “The poor you will always have with you.” Why is this? Not everyone can handle wealth. Not everyone will work. People make mistakes with money. So, there will always be a need for charity to help the poor. That is good. It teaches all of us what’s important.

So, do you follow the worldly model for money, or God’s economic plan. God’s plan will lead you to be a consistent giver. Following this plan means you trust God–not people–to bring you the increase and meet your needs. What you do with your money says everything about what, or who, you believe in.

A brief word on reacting naturally vs. responding with wisdom from God and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.

1) The need is not the call. You cannot help everyone everywhere.

2) Give cheerfully, not grudgingly or under compulsion (2 Cor. 9:7)

3) Give without expecting a return. 

4) Don’t loan if you cannot do without it (Prov. 22:36, 5:42)

5) Pray globally, serve and give locally. Help your neighbor.

6) Don’t run after well publicized, and usually well-funded, campaigns. Look for the underserved and underfunded.

7) Be practical. Ask critical questions. What can I/we do that will help the situation/these people. You’re not there to be noticed or make your conscience feel better.

8) If you’ve gone to serve somewhere, do something helpful. Don’t stand around. Don’t get in the way of others. Let the more experienced lead the way.

9) If you think you’re too busy, or that you don’t have enough money to help. Pray. You may have something to give that others do not. Technical skill, contacts/connections, the ability to motivate others who can help.