19 Apr 2001

The Back-in-Context Heart

Submitted by theshovel
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and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. 2 Corinthians 8:5

Let me tie some things together.

You've heard me refer to out-of-context verses - which is the result of trying to determine the meaning of individual statements (or passages) by separating them from their original framework. Whether this happens in the process of Biblical interpretation or in the news coverage of a political speech, the end result is as undependable as the bias of either writer or reader. But this practice is merely the consequence of something more basic: an out-of-context perception.

Perception refers to how we view - or understand - the world in which we live. Unfortunately, through logic based in Greek and Roman philosophies [see *Note at bottom], we have learned to divide and sub-divide our subject in order to get a handle on it. By this process, we've come up with countless topics that we treat as separate issues - "Giving" being one of many. But our out-of-context perceptions are also merely an outgrowth of something more basic: an out-of-context IDENTITY.

Our identity in this world is based upon origin. You see, our roots were found in a humanity that lost connection between itself and the source of its life. We were born into an existence separated - not only from God - but from our true selves. It's as if we were born ALMOST human, unable to discover our true destiny or identity.

We misunderstand the bondage of humanity when we try to define it by specific vices or evils instead of realizing that it is understood by the separation we have suffered from our hereditary disconnection with life. It turns out that the vices and evils we have experienced are merely natural results of an existence that is in contradiction with itself - in other words, an out-of-context identity.

The thing that makes grace amazing is the simple fact that through the operation of Christ, having died to sin and raised to new life, is that He has put our identity back in context! The thing that Adam was designed to experience has been fully experienced in Christ, with no contradiction. We have a new origin, our roots have been planted in Christ. And you who hear this and believe - whether it makes sense or not - have been made fully complete in Christ.

And yet we approach giving as if our identity was still defined by insincerity. We have been convinced that even though we have been made alive in Christ we are still basically tight-wads. Isn't this why we bind ourselves by pledges and percentages and principles and laws and guilt, or whatever else motivates us to give? [Now remember, if your heart rejoices to give a certain percentage, or to join in on a pledge, then go for it. But if there is no joy in it, you may want to reconsider why you do what you do. On the other hand, making a law of living in reaction against a law (such as holding back an inner compelling to give because you don't have to) is just as much a bondage and results in a similar lack of joy.]

You see, through the freedom of Christ, the human heart has been put back in context. The contradictions we still experience come from the fact that we keep re addressing whether or not Christ has once for all settled the matter.

Our questions revolve around WHO WE REALLY ARE. Has our identity as humans truly been re-established so that we can be confident in being who we are? Do we have to become somebody or something else in order to discover our purpose?

As far as giving is concerned, do we have to force some kind of gratitude or promise in order to make it happen? What if it turns out that your heart has ALREADY been renewed through Christ, and that simple confidence in this reality will stir it to the appropriate response - even if another doesn't approve?

In the next letter I will finally get into the specifics of what was going on between Paul and the Corinthians. You may be surprised to discover that I have actually been doing that in the past couple letters. :)

Until next time ...

Note: While this "Western" philosophy produces a greater understanding of selected fields of study it also brings a greater disconnection between those fields. In order to make the details fit together, the "experts" have to force the perception of the whole to comply with their understanding of those details. Now, while "Eastern" philosophy may be based upon the connection of all things and has produced many incredible results, it has forced everything it SEES - both "good" and "evil", both "life" and "death" - into two sides of the same reality, instead of seeing that one is the absence of the other.

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theshovel's picture

These comments were all transferred over from the original website


Posted: April 20, 2001 by Bob Shumake

Hey Jim!
Just wanted to let you know how much I have been enjoying this series on tithes and giving. You are right on the mark. As I have told you before though it probably will not make you "Mr. Popular" of the block but it needs to be said!
I have believed for years that this is and has been used within the "church" and managed to take away the freedom that we have been granted. I also believe that many pastors do not even realize that they are placing the people of their congregation under bondage as they preach the % message.

Keep up the hard work!

In His name,


shovel's response:
Bob, thanx for the encouragement because you are very right about the popularity thing. Believe me, I know HOW to win friends and influence people, but the freedom of Christ keeps ruining it for me. :) Jim


Posted: April 20, 2001 by Anonymous

«In the next letter I will finally get into the specifics of what was going on between Paul and the Corinthians. You may be surprised to discover that I have actually been doing that in the past couple letters. :)»

Finally!!

Main Entry: 1fi·nal
Pronunciation: 'fI-n&l
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin finalis, from finis boundary, end
Date: 14th century
1 a : not to be altered or undone b : of or relating to a concluding court action or proceeding
2 : coming at the end : being the last in a series, process, or progress
3 : of or relating to the ultimate purpose or result of a process
synonym see LAST
- fi·nal·ly /'fI-n&l-E, 'fIn-lE/ adverb


Haha! Do I detect a little bit of relief to that age-old question: "Daddy, are we there yet?" hahaha! Thanx for the encouragement to continue. :) Jim


Posted: April 20, 2001 by John

Dear Jim,
As usual, I enjoyed your letter. THANKS!


Posted: April 20, 2001 by Elaine

Dear Jim,

We can make grace a work? By turning around the have to too don't have to. Making that the issue. I am sure that is not the correct English. Oh well you know what I mean?

It was such a relief to know that Christ has taken care of all. Because if let up to me I would goof up. Take my word for it I have been at it a long time. So now I am thinking oh no I can still do it wrong. My heart tells me that is not what you were saying. I am trying to reason this out as I am typing this. Please bear with me.

Lets see how can I put this. We are using giving as the subject. I should just rest in Him and know if I want to give and can go ahead that is fine. If I can't give and because of that I don't give, again just rest in Him. The bondage was when I felt I had to give to receive from God. Freedom is because I have already received from God I can give if my heart says so. I need to rest in giving just as in not giving.

Because now that I know who I am in Him He will lead me through my heart to give and what. I can trust Him. Think I got it. Love Elaine

Hello Elaine! :)


In answer to your first question:

«By turning around the have to too don't have to.»

Very wise, grasshopper!!! haha!! Oh yes, in the quest to try to get a handle on how to stay away from law we keep trying to make some quick and easy principles to follow to NOT have to do it. But as you have said we can actually make laws - or "un-laws" - about what we DON'T have to do. Well, you could find support for that even in the Law of Moses.

Don't get confused over this. The only reason we do it is out of fear. The fact is that it is not about what you DO or what you DON'T do, but it's about the new creation ... which is what we are. We are a formula-laden society that thinks it has to fill the void. You are alive in Christ, and that, plain and simple, is your only basis for living.

When I mention the formula-laden perception, I have seen it influence much of the contemporary "grace" teaching. The reason for this is simple: we have grown up in a "common sense" society and as we learn the reality of the life of Christ within us we try too doggoned hard to make it make sense with the other stuff we've learned, and we usually teach it that way because we think we are doing people a favor by making it "easier" to understand. Does that make any sense at all? :)

As far as "giving" goes, I will be continuing with that in the Shoveletter, but I'll give you a "sneak preview"! haha! If you'll keep in mind that giving is really not about money, but is about the giving of ourselves then it all starts to fit together. WE are the ones who keep forcing the money issue, not God. This is what I've been establishing all the way through, and am now ready to get into the whole thing with WHY Paul dealt with the money part of it with the Corinthians, which is where we have gotten so much of the crappy thinking from (NOT from what Paul wrote, but from our legal perspectives of what we have read into it).

The fact is that giving has been put into our hearts and yet we get caught up in fear and guilt and indecision over the financial considerations. THAT is the ONLY issue I really ever hear mentioned when people discuss "giving". It's downright depressing to observe the giving hearts of those born of God thinking in these terms because all it does is to stifle the million OTHER ways that we give OF OURSELVES. Do you know what I mean?

I have watched you grow in the freedom of Christ and it has been exciting. You have been overflowing with love and have been sharing yourself with others and you have likewise been blessed in what you have received from others. Never, ever forget that THIS is the substance of "giving".

There happen to be times when we are able to share material goods and services, but unfortunately, because we have gotten so "church-building" oriented many find themselves paying off the mortgage of a large building under the premise that this is the giving that God requires of us. The "churches" in this country would be much better off if the leaders would get a blasted job and stop sucking the people dry. These leaders might discover that they actually NEED Christ in their every day lives ... and they wouldn't have to try so hard to "relate" with their "congregation" because they would be working hand in hand with them under their same conditions. I'll say no more about that! :) haha!

Fear not! Live as one who is alive!!

Love, Jim


Posted: April 20, 2001 by Richard

Hi Jim,

I really loved this part. There happen to be times when we are able to share material goods and services, but unfortunately, because we have gotten so "church-building" oriented many find themselves paying off the mortgage of a large building under the premise that this is the giving that God requires of us. The "churches" in this country would be much better off if the leaders would get a blasted job and stop sucking the people dry. These leaders might discover that they actually NEED Christ in their every day lives ... and they wouldn't have to try so hard to "relate" with their "congregation" because they would be working hand in hand with them under their same conditions. I'll say no more about that! :) haha!

This is one aspect of the gospel that needs to be repeated over and over again! Love you bro


Posted: April 20, 2001 by Richard

Jim,

I would love to hear you expand upon this if you could.
Thanks,
Richard

«When I mention the formula-laden perception, I have seen it influence much of the contemporary "grace" teaching. The reason for this is simple: we have grown up in a "common sense" society and as we learn the reality of the life of Christ within us we try too doggoned hard to make it make sense with the other stuff we've learned, and we usually teach it that way because we think we are doing people a favor by making it "easier" to understand. Does that make any sense at all? :)»


Hi Richard!

There is an incessant need to have things "make sense" to us. The fact is that the reality of Christ is totally opposite of the life we have known in the life of Adam. But we want it to make sense within the realm of the former life.

Because of this we come up with "understandable" answers. These are the answers that SEEM to cause us to understand the things of God. We refer to this understanding in terms of degrees, and we usually gauge it by things like Bible knowledge or doctrinal insight, etc. This kind of "knowledge" is intellectual in nature.

What I refer to in the "grace" teachings is something a friend of mine has termed "Grace-lite". :) A good description. Too often, it still comes across as if the "clergy" is dishing out nice little chunks of "grace-truth" to the "laity". Unfortunately, our cookie-cutter answers often only end up causing more confusion because they teach us something other than what they say on the surface. They say that we can understand God's grace by getting this stuff down!

I love it when the radical grace of Christ that passes understanding "makes sense" to people. It is stuff like this that continually testifies to the miraculous! You know what I'm saying here? I don't mean that after I try real hard to get them to understand it that they say, "Oh, now I get it!", but instead when I speak of this new life knowing that unless God opens the eyes it won't be seen ... and then it's seen - sometimes at a much later time.

Does this give you a little more of an idea of where I'm coming from? Oh, yeah, there's much more I could say about it with some specifics if needed.

Jim :)


Jim,

Thanks for responding to my question. I had a hunch this was what you were going to say. It's great to have things confirmed though. Yes I would love to hear more on this when you have time! That was right on, grace-light. Margi has a great description as well, piffel-light, not sure if that's how you spell piffel. Anyways it means less than light. By the way your web site has never looked better!!! Love, Richard


Posted: April 20, 2001 by Nancy

Jim, I always enjoy your Shoveletters, but this particular Shoveletter was helpful to me. A few years back I began to "get it", that the things I was taught at my church weren't correct. But even though I was understanding some things about God's grace, other things went "swoosh" right by my head. I realize now that the reality I've been focusing on - even after all this time - isn't really reality at all. I know you've made mention in your past letters such statements as "cold is the absence of heat" and "darkness is the absence of light". Finally I get it, that death is the absence of life. Now that sounds so obvious at first glance, but now I understand what you mean by it. There are so many things we just cannot understand if we don't accept by faith that the things God says are true really are true. I've been looking at myself all this time as a sinner, when I no longer am.
This is cool! I'm going to enjoy the next few days as I apply this concept. For instance: My church is among those who have really come down hard in recent years in judgment towards homosexuals. We've been guilty of focusing on sin, behavior, performance, or whatever you want to call it. Why is this sin one of the biggies that can get you kicked out of fellowship with the rest of the church? That didn't sound right to me and it tickled the back recesses of my brain but I couldn't have explained why it was wrong for a Christian Church to be condemning people by classifying sins. What we should have been doing was focusing on and preaching Christ and what He has done to sin and its power rather than try to justify ourselves by classifying and comparing our sins.

Thanks Jim. I think I've finally stepped onto the right side of the fence. Isn't it amazing how many times you have to repeat something to someone before it sinks in? Or am I the only thick headed one in the world? : )

Love,


Posted: April 20, 2001 by Gregg

Jim: I have been reading through your website intently for the past several months. This is my first time to respond, and I want to start by thanking God for speaking to my heart through your heart. Thank you for your willingness to "give" of yourself!

I really agree with your comment on the "church-building orientation," which takes our focus off of Christ as our Life, and Christ as the Head (Life) of the church. There is a lot of activity in the church, it seems, without evidence of true Life.

This past year I started working part-time in my engineering job I have been in for 22 years (I used to tell people I am an engineer; now I freely tell people I am a child of God who works in an engineering job). This has allowed me to serve as a teacher with a discipling ministry focusing on the finished work of Christ and His grace. This is an awesome time for me. We teach one-on-one and in group conferences. Our conference ministry is involved in a prison where I have witnessed several men come to know freedom in Christ.

Last year when I started this part-time schedule, my focus was on ultimately transitioning to "full-time" ministry. God is graciously showing me that Christ in me is my full-time ministry! What freedom! I don't have to prepare for the ministry, the Ministry (Christ) is preparing me (did that make any sense?)! My time in my engineering job is now a vital part of my ministry, and is such a wonderful opportunity for the fragrance of Christ to be manifested through me.

So, I relate well to your notes on pastors relating to their congregations. It is so important to be real and "down in the trenches" with people, meeting them where they are (that's how Christ met me), instead of the people meeting the pastor where he is in a church building.

Anyway...at the same time, I do realize that some Christians are led by God to be full-time ministers/missionaries vocationally. Sometimes Paul worked as a tentmaker, other times he did not. At your convenience, could you comment on this "full-time" aspect of vocational ministry? I'm thinkin' out loud here...thanx for the freedom to do so.


Gregg, thank you for sharing your thoughts and your heart here!! It is very encouraging to me and I hope to others as well. :)

"God is graciously showing me that Christ in me is my full-time ministry!"

Very cool insight, bro!! Yes, we have turned "ministry" into a respectable vocation when in fact true ministry is mostly considered the service and attitude of an inferior.

Just think how the 12 disciples (especially Peter) reacted to Jesus' "ministry" as He prepared to wash their feet. It was offensive to them that He would take the form of a SERVANT ... but that was merely a picture of what He had been doing the whole time He was with them ... and definitely an insight into what was about to happen.

When Paul spoke of his "ministry" it is so far removed from everything we think of when we think of ministry. He also used it in the sense of having been made a servant who has nothing of his own to stand on, but that he was merely a "steward" - one accountable to his boss.

"Let a man regard us in this manner, as SERVANTS of Christ, and STEWARDS of the mysteries of God." 1 Corinthians 4:1

The Corinthians were being swayed by men who set themselves up to receive the praise of man. Paul used his comments about ministry in contrast to this self-important "calling" declared by charlatans.

To Paul it was a glorious, amazing thing to be a "minister" of Christ's good news because he KNEW that he had been the enemy of God but had been brought into fellowship with the God of life!! He gloried in this WEAKNESS and this DESPISED place of declaring his own worthlessness outside of Christ's work.

"What freedom! I don't have to prepare for the ministry, the Ministry (Christ) is preparing me (did that make any sense?)!"

Yes, it did. :)

"Anyway...at the same time, I do realize that some Christians are led by God to be full-time ministers/missionaries vocationally. Sometimes Paul worked as a tentmaker, other times he did not. At your convenience, could you comment on this "full-time" aspect of vocational ministry?"

Well, I know that people are often supported materially in "full-time ministries". As stated earlier, I think most of it is bogus. I still think that even though some may be put in the position to have this "full-time" ministry thing going it so easily confuses what actual ministry is even while it is happening. The "ministry" even in cases like these is usually NOT what is considered the "ministry" that is being supported.

I just don't like the whole thing. haha! I think of Paul's "full-time" ministry as he was taken from court to court and jail to jail eventually to Rome. :) His luxurious accomodations aboard sailing vessels and first-class lodgings must have been nice (as it was paid for by Caesar). I just think we have too much embedded into our perceptions that get in the way of most "ministry" considerations.

All said, I'm not against the idea of physical support for those carrying this truth of Christ. Unfortunately, we too often forget that the "ministry" is happening among all those in Christ, not just the "minister" as we tend to think of it.

"I'm thinkin' out loud here...thanx for the freedom to do so. Gregg"

I thank you incredibly for doing so. :)

Jim


Posted: April 20, 2001 by Richard

« All said, I'm not against the idea of physical support for those carrying this truth of Christ. Unfortunately, we too often forget that the "ministry" is happening among all those in Christ, not just the "minister" as we tend to think of it. »

Hi Jim,

I loved this!

When I think of all the time, energy, and money I invested in being prepared for the "ministry", then one day after paying my dues I arrived ... NOT! I can't speak for anyone else in the "ministry", but I personally loved being seen and heard!

My disillusionment was that being in the "ministry" gave me a status that was measurably more significant than the "lay person". Talk about a load of donkey dung! Seems to me Paul mentioned something about dung...
There's one ministry I'm totally commited to, and that's the "ministry and Life of Christ" flowing through me as well as through my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Flowing where, you might ask? Wherever He chooses to put us (the jars of clay) so people can see the real treasure which is Christ in us, the hope of glory. And we all know that this has nothing to do with badges, buttons, offices, callings, ministries, annointings, giftings, etc. etc.

Richard :)


Most excellent, Sir Richard. :) The ministry of life, indeed!! Jim

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