Monday, November 28, 2011

Ben Davidson: Guest Blogger

As I am on vacation this week, Ben steps up to the plate and does the weekly blog update...

This fall, a number of us at Bethany Community Church participated in short term compassion projects presented by BCC’s Community Compassion ministry. The purpose of the Community Compassion ministry is to glorify God by meeting the spiritual and physical needs of our neighbors (Matthew 9:35-38).

The purpose of these projects was to give short term exposure to compassion ministry and see where the Lord may lead our church in future compassion ministries.

Historically, the universal church has struggled to know the balance between gospel-proclamation ministry and a perceived separate ministry of caring for the poor. I believe these two ministries are beautifully wed together in the Scripture:

James 1:27 - Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Galatians 6:10 - So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Colossians 1:28-29 - Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Matthew 9:35-38 - And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
(All Scripture quotations from the ESV)

What does it mean to minister to the poor and still hold fast to the gospel? What is the Good News? Is it simply making the world a better place? Watch this video entitled “Ministries of Mercy” as John Piper, D.A. Carson, and Tim Keller interact over this topic. The conversation speaks to what John Piper means when he says, “we exist to relieve all suffering—especially eternal suffering (hell).” View it at:

May our hearts be infatuated with the gospel and its implications for our lives!

Pastor Ben

Monday, November 14, 2011

Occupy My Street

Anxiety and materialism are close cousins.  The anxious person fears his or her lack: lack of security, lack of wealth, lack of safety.  This Sunday, we will discover that our tendency to become anxious reveals we don't trust our heavenly Father.

This past Sunday, I mentioned an article by Frank Turk at the Team Pyro blog.  The graphs I showed may have been a little hard to see, so I thought I'd reproduce the two graphs I showed here and direct you to his article here for his excellent observations:

By the way, Turk used Gapminder World to construct his graphs and make his observations, which you can find here

The first graph, if you recall, shows the average life expectancy and median per capita income in the year 1800.

The second graph shows us in 2010:

Turk writes:
The green line there is the median household income for the United States in 2010. If you have forgotten 6th grade math, the "median" in a series of numbers is not the average of the series: it is the number in the middle of the series. So if you lined up the incomes for all 113,146,000 households with incomes in 2010, the value in the dead center of the list is $ 44,389.00 This is an interesting number as it shows how incomes skew either to the high end or the low end of the distribution -- and given that the mean household income is north of $60,000, I grant you it shows that the household incomes in the U.S. skew lower than average.
But see here: that green line has a startling place on the graph of world economies. There are only 4 nations that have an average per cap GDP higher than our median household income -- so the median household in the U.S. has it pretty good. And that value has special meaning relative to Rosling's video: Rosling classifies income of $40,000 as rich.
Rich! Isn't that awesome? That puts your complaints into a certain light, but there's one more vertical line I want to stripe in here:

You may not be familiar with the quintile rankings for income, so briefly: if you took that list of 113,146,000 households again in lowest-to-highest rank, and broke them up into five evenly-sized groups, you would have quintiles of income. The break point between the 1st (lowest) and 2nd quintile is at $18,500 -- meaning the bottom 1/5th of households in the US have an annual income of under $18,500. That sounds pretty scary, right? That's the kind of thing you are out in the street trying to educate us about, yes?

But check it out: the line where you and I would say is the line which designates the poorest of the poor is well above the per capita income of more than 85% of the world's population. It's a level of income 80% greater than the per cap GDP of South Africa, 30% greater than Russia, and six times greater than that of India.

That is: we define poverty in an opulent way. Compared to the UK in 1800, we have defined the crown of Western Civilization to that time down to a dirty little country which we would be offended to live in. The great part about this is the punchline: it's because we're greedy.
"It's because we're greedy."  His words are hard to take, but he's right.  The problem with the world is not only found in greedy fat cats on Wall Street, nor grungy kids in the streets.  The problem is within men.  The protestors, if they want to find examples of greed need not go to Wall Street--they can come to My Street.
I'm excited to be going through the Gospel of Luke with you and being challenged to live for God's glory in a more profound and radical way.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Fool, Money, and Marriage

This Sunday, as we continue to go through the Gospel of Luke we will look at "The Parable of the Foolish Rich Man."  It is one of those parables that makes us squirm.  In it, a man decides to build larger barns to store his vast resources.  Finally, he tells his soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” 

But God calls this man a fool, for his life comes to an end that very night and, God asks, “now who will own what you have prepared?”  Jesus concludes: “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

We’ll deal with the text Sunday, but it should be obvious that there is no shortage of sermon illustrations on this subject.  Let me share just one study with you that demonstrates how foolish those of us who believe we can find joy and peace in the material things of this world.  The original story can be found here:

Can't buy me love: Study shows materialistic couples have more money and more problems

New research to be published Oct. 13 confirms The Beatles' lyrical hypothesis and finds that "the kind of thing that money just can't buy" is a happy and stable marriage.

Scholars at Brigham Young University studied 1,734 married couples across the country. Each couple completed a relationship evaluation, part of which asked how much they value "having money and lots of things."

The researchers' statistical analysis showed that couples who say money is not important to them score about 10 to 15 percent better on marriage stability and other measures of relationship quality than couples where one or both are materialistic.

"Couples where both spouses are materialistic were worse off on nearly every measure we looked at," said Jason Carroll, a BYU professor of family life and lead author of the study. "There is a pervasive pattern in the data of eroding communication, poor conflict resolution and low responsiveness to each other."

The findings will be published Oct. 13 in the Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy.

For one in five couples in the study, both partners admitted a strong love of money. Though these couples were better off financially, money was often a bigger source of conflict for them.

"How these couples perceive their finances seems to be more important to their marital health than their actual financial situation," Carroll said.

And despite their shared materialism, materialistic couples' relationships were in poorer shape than couples who were mismatched and had just one materialist in the marriage.

The study's overall findings were somewhat surprising to Carroll because materialism was only measured by self-evaluations.

"Sometimes people can deceive themselves about how important their relationships are to them," Carroll said. "It's helpful to step back and look at where you focus your time."

Brothers and Sisters, only the fool pursues a path that will not bring him joy.  Pursue the pearl of great price instead of the guady trinkets of self-destruction.