Friday, August 27, 2010

Have you practiced tzedakah today?

"Our works of charity are nothing but the overflow of our love of God from within." Mother Theresa

I really like the television show Rob Dyrdek's Fantasy Factory. Rob is awesome. If I saw him walking down the street I would ask him if we could be friends. He is cool guy. I don't know what it is about Rob Dyrdek, but he seems to live life to the beat of his own drum. He invests in all sorts of odd real estate including a fantasy factory that has a foam pit and a zip line. (I guess if I was rich I would probably do the same thing--build a sweet place for all my friends to play around in.) I was watching an episode the other day where he asked Lamar Odom to invest in a restaurant because a true "mogul" needs a restaurant. The restaurant will serve Asian fusion food. I want to go to there.

 It's pretty obvious that Rob spends a lot of money on extravgant things. But he also practices charity. I like that about Rob. In his abundance he, in some form or another, has understood that many around him don't have as much. I remember an episode from Rob and Big, where Rob chose to give from his abundance. Rob was driving through skid row and handing out bags of brand new clothes. He gave from what he had to those who had nothing. Rob Dyrdek practiced tzedakah.

There is a great teaching in the Old Testament about charity. It is captured in the word tzedakah. God commanded his people to give to those who had nothing. They were reminded that the poor would always be among them; therefore, they should always be ready and willing to give (Deuteronomy 15:11). Tzedakah is often translated as "charity," and is based on the Hebrew word for righteousness and justice. Many Jews practiced something called "acts of righteousness"--the right ordering of relationships and resources. Tzedakah can be translated as charity, but is is more than that. Charity implies that your heart motivates you to give and maybe give a little extra than you normailly would; tzedakah, however, means doing the right thing no matter your feelings. I guess tzedakah might look like giving to someone in need even if your heart is not in it because it is the right thing to do.

Jesus embodies this teaching in the gospels. He gives of his time and resources to those who are in need. He makes relationships right by his many healings and his radical inclusion of outsiders. Perhaps we can even say that the ultimate example of tzedakah happened when Christ chose the cross for us. A gift of grace and love, to make things right (Romans 4:22-25).

God has called his people to make things right in this world. It should be known that the world is full of people practicing tzedakah. Maybe they don't realize the connection between their charity and the heart of God. When you see someone give and serve, tell them they are making things right and that God is pleased. Show them that our God is a God of compassion and justice. Live in such a way that you overflow with compassion towards others. We can all do something. We can all live with tzedakah. And we can even learn a valuable lesson from Rob Dyrdek.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Arizona Adventures: What we learned from exercise DVDS

Theologians are everywhere. Sometimes the most profound statements about God and faith are found not in books, but in a life lived and experienced together. These insights just seem to happen. Suddenly, during our regular and ordinary lives, the extraordinary occurs. God reminds us that He is with us.

It was like that in Arizona. God reminded us that He was there, working and ministering to us through His Spirit. We were in awe. There was so much healing that took place that week in the mountains. We confessed sin, admitted that we had fallen short, and replied unanimously, “Me too; I’ve been there, and I’m struggling with you.” We were reminded that this journey of faith is not a yellow brick road that leads to a life of prosperity and ease. Sometimes the road is marked with suffering, confusion and loss. Sometimes we forget that the gift of following Jesus Christ is not Cadillac’s, cash, and no colds; rather, the gift of following Jesus is Jesus. And he is worth the struggle.

One of our students made a profound statement while at camp. He remembered it from the P90X exercise DVDS that are so popular. He said, “I have not failed; I have not given up. Instead, I am currently struggling with this…” I thought that was incredible and I think we can all agree…me too! We are struggling but we have not given up. We are in need of grace and acceptance. Our sights are set upwards and no matter what happens we are not quitters, losers, or lost causes. Instead, we are those who believe and are saved. (Hebrews 10:39).

I smiled that evening as I looked upon a group of high school students who were genuinely living life together—no pretenses, no facades, and plenty of humility. We realized that we are struggling together, along with our King. And we will continue this fight because Jesus is worth it. We will pursue grace. Our Savior is not looking for us to attain awards, fame and accolades in this life. No, it is quite the opposite in fact. He is looking for scars and battle wounds as we struggle upwards, continually pursuing the Light.