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Turning the Bible Into Behavior

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The Big 10: So’s Your Old Man!

For those of you who have been tracking along with our Big 10 series, today we hit the mid-point. We’re now half-way through the ten commandments. The 5th commandment has to do with mothers and fathers.

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”

This is the first commandment that has a promise attached to it. If you follow this instruction, then the promise is this: you’ll have a long life in the Promised Land. There is a connection between how they treated their elders and how God blessed them.

This is somewhat of a foreign concept in western culture. We love people as long as people love us. But God doesn’t put conditions on this command. It’s not always easy. Have you ever had a parent who knows everything and, no matter what you say or do, nothing is ever right or good enough? But we are STILL called to honor the parents that drive us crazy.

When you’re 10 you might have disagreements with your parents that drive you bananas. When you’re 50 years old you might have life-long issues with your parents that have never been resolved. I’m reminded of a joke I once read:

child-355176_1920– When a child is six her words are, Daddy I love you.”
– When she is 16 her words are, “Daddy you have no idea what you’re talking about!”
– When she’s 26 it’s, “Daddy, you’ve got some good ideas.”
– When she’s 36 it’s, “Daddy, I should have listened to you from the very beginning.”

The Bible says to honor our parents but this is not about domination. Parents, we cannot use this commandment to batter our children and demand obedience. God isn’t talking to minors about how to deal with parents while we’re living in their home. The readers here are adults. God is telling those of us who are grown that we still need to honor mother and father.

But it goes far beyond that.

In Hebrew, the words mother and father go beyond the parental units that birthed us. people-852423_1920The words can be used for grandparents and ancestors. It really comes down to the family as a whole. God’s promise to a long life in the Promised Land isn’t about obeying the people who raised us – it’s about creating a culture that honors those who have gone before us. It’s about the entire community sticking together and thriving.

In Deuteronomy 6:1-9 we’re told about what the family is supposed to do.

These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

It’s the responsibility of the family to teach about God and his covenant. It’s the responsibility of the children (adult children, mind you) to say, “I will be a covenant keeper.”

What does it mean to honor parents and family? It can be a vague commandment, but it wasn’t difficult in the ancient world: you don’t curse your parents, you don’t strike your parents, you don’t disobey your parents, and you provide your parents with a proper burial.

Our culture has trained us to think of community in a different way. Instead of family units making up the community, we are now communities of strangers. In the ancient near east, the smallest family unit was the nuclear family. They would live with the larger unit: the clan. The clans stuck together to make up the tribe. The tribes then made up the nation.

Without strong families, the nation ultimately fails. When the family falls apart, the community falls apart. It’s not just about honoring parents because this is a nice thing to do. God tells us that a strong community is predicated on how we honor the family.

In the New Testament Jesus radically changes the notion of familybaby-772439_1920 and community. Instead of flesh and blood, Jesus now makes faith the common bond that unites the new community. In the church we used to call each other “Brother So-and-So” and Sister such-and-such.” Flesh and blood doesn’t matter anymore because we have a new bond.

We have the same obligation to honor those who have come before us. We have an obligation to respect and listen to our fathers and mothers. Children, obey your parents. Honor your father and mother. Jesus is pulling directly from the 10 commandments and he reiterates the same principles. But he flips the table on the parents and elders: Don’t exasperate your kids but bring them up in the right way. This is the essence of discipleship! We are all called to help disciple those who come after us.

It’s not enough to go to church and get our spirituality on. We’re called to parent and to raise up the next generation. If the community is going to be strong it starts with the family unit. When we fail to disciple those who come after us, the community will weaken and ultimately fail.

Parent to child, are we doing what we ought to be doing to establish healthy families? Are we raising our children to be covenant keepers? Are we honoring those who have gone before us – not just our biological parents but our spiritual elders? The church is designed to BE the new family unit. It’s a sad state of affairs when people can go to church and feel completely isolated. It’s time to revitalize the community; the family; the community of God.

When we work on developing the Christian family, we’ll see happier and healthier homes. We’ll see stronger churches. We’ll see stronger communities of faith that actively honor the elders while simultaneously raising up the next generation.

 

Questions for Reflection

  • How can I honor my biological parents? How can I honor my spiritual elders?
  • What can I do to build and foster a healthy family and community?

When Middle School Students Are Forced to Study Islam

Tennessee’s Butt is in the news.

Seriously, Tennessee Representative Sheila Butt is making headlines. Go ahead and get the jokes and snickering out of the way right now. I’ll give you a minute.

Ready now?

Cool.

Here’s the deal – parents of middle school students got together to complain about the curriculum used to teach their students about Islam. It seems they thought there was more indoctrination than simple instruction. islamic-educationIf you read the whole article you will see that students aren’t subjected to Islam alone. The middle school curriculum takes them through several of the world’s major religions, including Christianity and Judaism.

Enter Ms. Butt. She’s trying to pass legislation prohibiting schools from teaching religious doctrine to students before 10th grade. Of course, the left is getting fired up over the issue. The Huffington Post politics page wrote about Rep. Butt’s attempt to push this legislation through. The feel of the piece is, “Those Islamophobic Christians are at it again!”

And they’re partly right.

Partly.

The legislation DOES seem to be anti-Islam in nature. But don’t let the Huffington Post article fool you. They quote an educator who lauds the contributions of Islam to the world (like the invention of algebra). The problem is that many of the contributions from Islam were actually from others cultures.

But here’s the thing: Christians don’t need to be up in arms about the world’s religions being taught in schools. Good parents are actively involved in the education of their children and should be having discussions about class material no matter what the content is. The “We don’t want the schools teaching this stuff to our kids” attitude only rears its head when parents take a hands-off approach to their kids’ education. Parents, find out what your kids are learning and talk about it at home. Teach them what the Bible says.

Here’s the other thing: Christians don’t need to be up in arms about the world’s religions being taught in schools (yes, I know I already said that). Jesus is big enough to handle middle school students hearing about other faith traditions. I can’t see the Apostle Paul getting his knickers in a twist when people offered competing world views. This is the guy who once wrote:

If someone who isn’t a Christian asks you home for dinner, go ahead; accept the invitation if you want to. Eat whatever is offered to you and don’t ask any questions about it. Your conscience should not be bothered by this. (1 Corinthians 10:27)

He wasn’t bothered by what other people believed – he simply continued to preach the truth that he always preached. I think we can do the same.

So be actively involved in your kids’ education, but trust that God is a big God and isn’t threatened by other faiths.

Help Me Buy an Orphanage

Okay, not really “buy” an orphanage, but for only $8 we can do something REALLY cool and make a significant impact in kids’ lives – here, check out the story…

Scorziell 1Jeff and Tammy were missionaries to Africa from 1984 to 1989. Moving back to the U.S., they lived, worked, and raised their family. They planted a church in Orange County, California, which is where my wife and I met them. I joined the pastoral staff in 2004. Jeff and Tammy are some of the best people I know. Their love for Jesus and their heart for people is incredibly authentic – there is nothing false or pretentious about them. In the six years I spent in ministry with them, they and their daughters and sons-in-law became like family to us.

Then, in 2011, they were asked to pastor the Bulawayo Baptist Church in Zimbabwe. The pastor was retiring and some friends of theirs submitted their names and they got the job. They sold everything and immigrated to Zimbabwe. Talk about a leap of faith!

Zimbabwe is in Southern Africa. It is one of the five poorest countries in the world, has one of the highest AIDS problems on the continent.Zimbabwe The average life expectancy is only 37 years and almost 10% of the population is orphaned. It is a country that desperately needs help.

Tammy says:

“One of my cousins said to me shortly before I left for Zimbabwe, ‘Tammy, I can only imagine all the prayers that went up to God by the dying parents asking Him to watch over their children and I think He is sending you there in answer to their prayers.’ That statement is what motivates me to do all that is in my power and ability by God’s AMAZING GRACE to help support these children any way I can.”

Tammy immediately began going to the orphanages in Bulawayo telling Bible Stories and doing Jana Alayra worship with them. As she began making relationships, two orphanages obtained property in September 2012 and they offered it to her, a 50+ California girl who never farmed a day in her life, to help them use the land to become self-sustainable.
Scorziell 3

Thus was born “Fruitful Harvest,” a ministry with the mission of creating “Zimbabwean Products Helping Zimbabwean Children.”Scorziell 4

One of the Properties belongs to the Sandra Jones Centre. This is a home with over 70 sexually abused, abandoned, and orphaned children. Many of the young girls are between 11 and 17 years old. Most of them are victims of rape and incest and are pregnant. Many are also uneducated. Debbie Brennocks, the founder and director of the Centre, and Tammy took another leap of faith and applied for a grant that would help teach these girls a skill to help them support themselves and their baby (if they chose to keep them). It was approved and they now teach the girls gardening skills and how to raise chickens.Scorziell 5

Currently they are raising 1000 chickens every 9 weeks and sell the chickens to the community. They raised three batches last year and because of the generous help from a local chicken farmer they are able to generate a profit of $4,500 a batch – and the girls are learning a trade in the process.

The goal for 2015 is to raise six batches and, if all goes well, they are poised to raise $27,000 for the Centre. This is very exciting but it costs us $18,000 a month to run the centre plus they still owe $250,000  for the remaining payment of the property (they have paid $300,000 to date).

The other property belongs to an orphanage called Harvest Family Village. Jenny Hensman, the founder and director of this orphanage, has taken in AIDS orphans as well as the costly and difficult to care for handicapped children. The handicapped child is often the most poorly cared for of all orphans.

At this orphanage, Tammy began with 500 Rhode Island Red chicks to help them generate income from selling of eggs. The first hen house was built using scraps found around the property. Scorziell 7They raised funds to secure the fencing against wild dogs and other animals that could harm the birds. They are now making plans to expand and raise our next batch of 1000 hens which could add an additional $1250 per month.Scorziell 8

There is no government support for these children. The orphanages feed, clothe, educate, pay medical bills, etc. for the children all by faith and the help from others God leads to them.

I’ll be honest – this is the most ambitious ministry fundraiser I’ve ever tried. But I’m not asking you to buy me a gulfstream jet. I’m asking you to help pay for an orphanage. It would be incredible if we, the worldwide Church, could fund this ministry. The most “viral” blog post I’ve ever written was viewed 35,000 times. And that had no greater significance on people’s lives. Here we have an opportunity to make a HUGE impact in the lives of children. If this post were seen by 35,000 people it would only take those people making a ONE-TIME contribution of $8.00 to fully pay-off the Sandra Jones Centre property.

Please consider how you can help these children and this ministry.Scorziell 2 Whatever you donate through our GoFundMe campaign goes right to Fruitful Harvest Ministries and missionaries Jeff and Tammy Scorziell. The Church Plant does not hold on to any of it.

Click on the button to go to our fundraising campaign:

If you have any questions you can contact us through The Church Plant or see the Fruitful Harvest Ministries website.

God bless you all.

Chris Linzey

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Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, and Email. Even if you can’t donate, you can help spread the word and be praying for the ministry to Zimbabwe!

The Mighty 100!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I make no secret of the fact that I am a big fan of television and movies. Often times after a tv show has been running for a while it will save production costs and time and commit a whole episode to clips from previous episodes – it’s called a clip show.

Today is my day. I hit 100 posts on my blog and I wanted to take some time to look back over the last 4+ months of writing. In that time I’ve had nearly 8,000 views and over 200 likes (thank you all for reading and liking).

Rather than highlight the most popular posts, though, I wanted to share my person Top 10 – the posts that I liked the most even if they weren’t the most popular to readers (although many were). So without further ado, here is my list:

My Kids Don’t Know They’re Black ~ In this post I talk about race relations from the standpoint of my kids. I find that there are a lot of ignorant people out there who say and think stupid things, especially when it comes to race. This was the first post where I literally felt compelled to write. It kept me up thinking about it – I couldn’t sleep until I sat down and hammered it out.

Reflections on Racism from a Mixed-Race Couple ~ Here my wife and I look at racism from our own perspectives. As much as I know her I’m always reminded that her take on racism comes from a very different place than mine. I loved writing this post because I got to co-write it with my wife. I keep trying to get her to write more, but no success yet.

Christian Beer…I Mean Liberty ~ Christian freedom is one of the most misunderstood and hotly debated issues in the church. What are we allowed to do? What are we not allowed to do?

Patriotism vs. Faith ~ We often confuse the two. It’s a personal pet peeve that many Christians equate patriotism with Christianity. You can be one without the other.

THAT OFFENDS ME! ~ Another pet peeve – people who try to manipulate other’s behavior through mishandling the Bible. Just because something offends you doesn’t mean the other person must stop doing it.

Forced Gay: Punishment for Religious Dissent ~ Oooh, this one got me into some tense conversations. It seems that my own view of Gay Marriage was not clear. I had people question me as to why I was going against the Bible (I wasn’t, but people get hot-headed over sensitive issues).

Leave Your Bible on Your Shelf ~ A personal favorite of mine, this was a post where I was responding to another blogger. It doesn’t matter whether your Bible is leather-bound or on your smart phone – it’s still Scripture.

Shirt Sleeves ~ I love my son. Tremendously. I can’t even think about him without warming over on the inside. He’s my little dude. I love writing about him, too.

Jesus Loves Dinosaurs ~ This was just a fun post to write (and the idea of Jesus hugging a dinosaur always makes me smile).

Confessions From a Pastor: The Real Me ~ This is it: me.

So…how about you? Do you have any favorites from the Bible Blotter? What are the?

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