Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Dark Knight Rises - as does my blog

Back to the blog.

This has been empty for a couple of years now, so maybe time for some thoughts?

As this is a return of sorts, how about writing about another return - Batman in Dark Knight Rises.

I loved this film. Like all films it had short comings, but overall I thought it was great. It was a superb end to Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. There are reviews aplenty on the net and commentaries ad infinitum. One which I think is really useful is from Ted Turnau - Maintaining the Balance in "The Dark Knight Rises": Ra's Al Ghul, Yoda, and the Gospel

What I thought I'd do here was simply point out some observations that I thought were interesting. Beware, here be spoilers, so don't read on if you haven't seen it yet.

Who's your daddy? A tale of two fathers.
Being Bruce Wayne, there's a lot of references to orphans and fathers in all Batman stories. In Dark Knight Rises there are two strong fathers that affect the action, while present in the background.

A. Ra's al Ghul. He wants to bring destruction to Gotham, to bring about his concept of justice (see the link above for more on this) through the death of Gotham's citizens. He conceives a daughter, is unaware of her birth and she is left to rescue herself from a pit. He is left for dead by the Batman. His work is carried on by his daughter (more about her later).

B. Thomas Wayne. Wayne wants Gotham to live, at one point I think he's even called the father of the city, but I could be wrong. He promotes social justice in the city and the betterment of its people. He has a loving relationship with his only son, who he one day rescues  from a well (pit). He is killed by petty criminals in Gotham. His work is carried on by Bruce/Batman in different forms, but always the preservation and betterment of others' lives.

I'm a believer. A tale of two faiths.
There is a lot about belief and faith in the film.

A. Firstly there are the "brothers" or followers of Bane, for example the brother who is left to die in the plane in the opening scene. He dies for the cause, though it's never really clear how much they understand of this cause. They would have been called "goons" back in the day, but it's clear the motivation isn't money, but nor is it as simple as a better world or an afterlife, as they know they will die in the bomb blast, but there's never any mention of an afterlife. They believe and trust in what they can see - Bane (he is impressive), guns, concrete laced with explosive and death (as in, they know people can die). I think they're people to fear.

B. Secondly there are "believers". Blake is the most obvious of these. He believes in the Batman "even if you (Bruce Wayne) don't". Jim Gordan is also a believer. He's distrustful of anything he can see and acts on judgement, suspicion and all those things that good movie detectives need. I think also that ultimately the children are the best believers. None of these people have any certainty that Batman's coming back. Batman was something or someone they saw once, eight years ago, when they were kids, or heard about in the playground because they were too young to remember that crazy Joker guy, the ships in the harbour and the Dark Knight who saved the day but became the guilty outlaw. They believe, but it's belief based on what happened in the past, not on what they can see or what they can do. It's faith based on hope. They're people to admire... because Batman does rise.

You stole my heart. A tale of two lovers.
Good films need twists, and the two female leads, the love interests, provide them.

A Miranda Tate. She's a high class lady (rich and a daughter of a princess), born in poor beginnings who wants to achieve her version of the greater good, appears to want to save the world, but actually she wants to destroy it, as her father before her. She wins Bruce's heart, but then loses it, perhaps even breaks it. She's a seducer and a ruiner.

B Selina Kyle. A selfish, independent, highly competent but low-life thief with aspirations of greatness eventually realises she needs to start again. She wants the "clean slate". She wants redemption and eventually finds it as Batman 'steals' her heart. She saves Batman's life and turns out to be selfless, wins Bruce's heart and they all lived happily ever after. She's a no-hoper, but she finds her place alongside the hero in the service of the greater good.

For all that the Dark Knight trilogy presents a Batman who is an anti-hero, living in the dark, he is the most basic of heros. He's the good guy, fighting the bad guy. The good guy wins, life is preserved, people are changed, love is found, resolution is had. Reminds me of another story, an even better story where a father is building a city, a hero is inspiring faith and calling 'no-hopers' to find meaning, purpose and love alongside him. Our culture, cynical as it may be (and some of that does come across in the film and the media coverage around it) still longs for these things.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Celebration of London

London is a great city, one of the best. It's here that I was born and bred, live and study. It's a place that has many of the finest things of the world. Samuel Johnson famously said, "A man who is tired of London, is tired of life." But, is there something more to hope for?
A few churches in the centre of London are putting on an event to celebrate London, but also to show that there is a city to come which is more wonderful. London alone is not all there is.
Click the image for more info.

A Celebration of London

Come to an evening of award-winning music and film that showcases how London has come to be the culturally rich, socially diverse, greatest city on earth.

The keynote speaker will be Rico Tice who will give a Christian view of London and ask if Samuel Johnson was right when he said: "By seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can show."

Want to come? Tell me and we'll go together.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Conspiracy in the City

"Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy ; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it." Isaiah 8:12

Conspiracy theories abound, turning political and historical events into part of a wider plan, as if there is some evil force behind everything that happens. It is partly a search for meaning and for truth. It is sometimes, like 'Ripple Effect', a call to justice when some party or other is convinced justice isn't working and we feel like we are on the losing side, or it's an excuse to give up our responsibilities and find a common enemy - as Mr Ahmadinejad is so clearly exemplifying for us at the moment by claiming the UK, the CIA, the BBC and everyone else is behind the protests and has nothing at all to do with his corrupt and unjust rule.

Call me old-fashioned, brain-washed or whatever, but I don't believe in aliens coming to earth to draw in our fields (that's not very intelligent, is it?), I don't believe Diana was murdered by MI6, and I don't think everything that happens in the world is part of a Zionist plot to rule the world. I'm not always looking at the intimate details, looking for hidden truths, to find meaning in everything and I'm not always beginning with the supposition that the obvious can't be true.
Having watched this I want to thank the BBC for broadcasting this program and debunking much of the rubbish that is circulating on the Internet surrounding the 7/7 bombings.
When watching, reading or listening to something and someone, ask yourself,
What do they claim?
What are the implications of that claim?
Why do they claim it?
What is their agenda?
(What are they trying to get you to do?)
What is their job? (This might not sound obvious, but what a person does for a living, if they are indeed seeking to earn a living, gives a pretty good insight into what sort of person they are and the biases and expertise they might have)
What are the narratives they have grown up with? Is it any surprise that someone who's brought up in a community that hates another community should continue his or her particular prejudice?
Do their actions back up what they claim? Muad Dib, real name John Hill, thinks he is the Messiah and the ark of the covenant is buried near him in Ireland.
What conspirators desire is truth, yet they often give the impression that truth itself is allusive, out there (either in space, in the Oval Office or perhaps in a little filing in Vauxhall labelled, "all the truth you ever wanted and never heard") and unachievable. That's a sad way to live. In our desire for truth, we need to learn and be taught how to read. How to read the narratives we hear everyday, how to assess truth over fiction, how to be critical (but not always cynical or sceptical) of what we hear and how to base our arguments on facts and show our sources.
That's the very reason I am Christian. I looked into the evidence and the lives of Jesus and his followers. I investigated if claims about the resurrection were true and what it would mean if it was true. I'm happy to follow the one who claimed to be the truth.
There is a worldwide plan, but it isn't some sinister plot, it's a plan that God has to bring all things (including you and me) under Jesus Christ and have them bow before him. That's no secret, but it might require listening to a different narrative than the one your used to in order to realise how wonderful that is.
For more on conspiracy theories, check out an interesting article in Standpoint magazine.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

"...who was and is and is to come...": Jesus IS

Where is Jesus now?
Around two thousand years ago a man named Jesus walked on the earth, lived, died and rose again! For a short while, just over a month he continued to live on earth but then he “was carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:51). Acts 1 records him being lifted up and taken out of sight. He left the earth in his physical body though he has gone somewhere that we can’t see, presumably outside of the physical universe that we know. Now that he has ascended as a physical man where is he? Hebrews 1:3-4 says,

After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Romans 8:34, Colossians 3:1,

…Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”

Christ is in heaven, next to the father.

What is He Doing?

Enjoying Glory
John’s gospel in particular has a big focus on the Trinitarian nature of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In chapter 17 verse 5 Jesus prays, “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed”. Jesus is now in glory, he is being glorified and is glorifying the Father. Hebrews 12:2 sees Jesus looking forward to “the joy set before him”. Now where is this Joy? The end of the same verse reads that he is “seated at the right hand of God”. To enjoy God’s glory is joyful. Jesus is happy! Our saviour and king is a happy king! Rejoice!

Sustaining all Things
Hebrews 1:3 “he upholds the universe by the word of his power”, Colossians 1:17, “in him all things hold together”. Jesus is the one keeping us alive and maintaining the universe. There is an order to the universe however fallen it is. Nothing happens without Jesus’ say so and therefore his plans will never fail. He can be trusted to rule even though we may not understand all that happens on this earth. Rejoice!

Made Salvation Certain
Revelation gives us the clearest glimpse of what the scene in heaven must be like, so let us look a little at what is revealed here. Firstly, in the opening of the book (Revelation 1:13-16) Jesus is seen by John as, like a son of man, clothed with a long white robe with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white like wool, as white as snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.

Wow! Christ is mighty! He is utterly pure, fully glorious, yet also it is worth noting that he says to John in the next verse, “Fear not”.
In Chapters 4 and 5 we see both the Father and the Son together. The Father is on the throne, described like the beginning of Ezekiel, and he is described by the creatures around the throne as “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty, / who was and is and is to come!” (Rev 4:8). Almost the same title is used of Jesus back in 1:8. So in one way they are the same, but we see they are also different. Chapter 5:6 we see Christ as the “Lamb standing as though it had been slain”. Together they are praised in verse 13.
The language is full of imagery here, for Jesus is both lion and lamb, but the sense is clear that Christ physically exists in heaven, next to the Father, that he is God, that he is glorious in splendour but that he is also recognisable as the slain lamb, he still bears the marks of the cross.
Hebrews will help us in understanding more fully this great scene. Hebrews 9:11-12 and 24, show that Christ is the fulfilment of the sacrificial system. He is the sacrificial lamb, pure and holy and is also our eternal high priest. The verses read that he has secured an eternal redemption. His work of redemption, achieved on the cross is finished!
So also he, as our great high priest, intercedes for us, as Hebrews 7:25 wonderfully states,

He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Jesus Christ being in heaven is a most wonderful thing for us. This is the most holy place of God, and because he has gone there before us, we can go there too. If we trust in Christ then we are assured of complete salvation! We do not need anything else to happen for us to be saved. Christ has already done it, and he intercedes for us. Anyone who says we must do things to achieve salvation, or that we need any other intermediary process is a liar. Christ himself has died for us, he himself intercedes for us, as he sits next to the Father.
When we are aware of how sinful we are we should remember two things: What Christ has done and what he is doing. He has paid the penalty for all our sins on the cross, he has redeemed us, we belong to God. Our status is righteous. Therefore our sins do not count against us. So also Christ intercedes for us. He declares before the father his own righteousness given to us and our sins punished on the cross. Indeed, with similar language to the verse above Paul writes,

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

Even Satan can’t bring any word against us before the Father. For any accusation that Satan brings, though he may hold up our sins before the Father, though they are true of us, are cancelled by the cross and forgotten as righteousness is given in their place.
If we feel unable to pray then we are forgetting Jesus’ sacrifice. Jesus did not die and rise from the dead so that we can call ourselves Christians, but so that we could know and have relationship with God, now and forever. He has done and is doing everything needed for that relationship to be possible. Rejoice!
Do we wish for more wonder and grace? Ephesians 2:6, “[God] seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”. Calvin writes, “we do not await heaven with a bare hope, but in our Head already possess it” (Institutes II.xvi.16).

Made and Is Making Victory Certain
Psalm 110:1, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstall.”
1 Corinthians 15 shows that Jesus is ruling until all his enemies are subject to him. The final enemy to be destroyed is death and this will come at the end of this world. Verse 54 reads that then we will say “Death is swallowed up in victory”.
I am unsure as to quite how this subduing works itself out in history. What is clear is that Christ is ruling. The same loving, humble, Jesus who walked on earth is ruling the world, and though he has secured the victory over death (see above about being risen) he has yet to completely fully swallow up death and claim the victory.
As I look at the world, still very far from perfection, and where Satan is still at work we can see that Jesus is not out of control, he is able to stop powers and authorities, both earthly and spiritual. We can have confidence that eventually every power and everything opposed to Jesus will be made to be his footstall and they will not triumph but rather be punished. Evil will be destroyed.

Making Salvation Spread
It is here that a large discussion on the Holy Spirit and his role in Salvation History and the life of the church may be had. Suffice to say that the Holy Spirit would not be had without Jesus being risen (John 16:4-15). Jesus lives in us and we have become temples of the Holy Spirit. This mighty Jesus, though in heaven, is not far from his people, rather he is closer than any person on earth! Through the ministry of the Spirit the message of the gospel is being spread across the world (see Acts chapter 2 onwards and 2 Corinthians 3).
In Ephesians 4 Paul writes about the church and the gifts given to the church. In verse 8 he writes about Christ having ascended as a triumphant king and he is pouring out gifts to his church in order that it will grow and become strong in faith and large in numbers.
2 Peter 3:9 says “The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance”. This is Jesus as distinct from the Father who is called God in this chapter (not that it ultimately matters for both are committed to the spread of the gospel), and he is waiting and working to share his glorious gospel with people.
As the gospel spreads the One who is central to that gospel is in control, is sovereign, (Matthew 28:18). Whether our gospel work seems fruitful or not, Christ is ruling, the plan of God to have a people more numerous than the sand on the seashore or the stars in the sky will be fulfilled.
I wish to summarise this and the previous point with the words of Calvin (ibid),

Faith comprehends his might, in which reposes our strength, power, wealth, and glorying against hell. “When he ascended into heaven he led a captivity captive” (compare Eph 4:8 and Ps 68:18), and despoiling his enemies, he enriched his own people, and daily lavishes spiritual riches upon them. He therefore sits on high, transfusing us with his power, that he may quicken us to spiritual life, sanctify us by his Spirit, adorn his church with diverse gifts of his grace, keep it safe from all harm by his protection, restrain the raging enemies of his cross and of our salvation by the strength of his hand, and finally hold all power in heaven and on earth. All this he does until he shall lay low his enemies and complete the building of his church.


Preparing a House for Us
“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go and prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:2-3).
Jesus is preparing a permanent dwelling place for us, to be with him, to be with him in glory, to see him, to share his joy with the Father in the most holy place!
Jesus is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (verse 6) and as we trust in him we can expect to one day be with him for all time. Rejoice!


Keep Going
I find it very interesting that nearly every verse that I have quoted above, especially from Hebrews, is used to show how great and complete and fulfilling Jesus is. Both Colossians and Hebrews are written to churches that are facing new teachings and being drawn into new practices. The writers’ response is to hold up Jesus in all of his glory and it seems that as we understand more the awesomeness of Jesus, as saviour, as Lord, then we are kept from being distracted by what isn’t of the gospel or by sin.
The aim is not simply to make us go wow, though I am sure this is a part. The aim of many of these verses is to urge, compel, and drive us to keep following Jesus. They are to make us remember our salvation, to remember who we are, to warn us about turning away, so that we flee from sin, that we endure all suffering and hardship, that we keep going in the Christian life. If we lack motivation or security in our Christian life or in Christian ministry, let us always be turning to gaze on the glory of He who we serve, Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.”

Colossians 3:1 “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, seated at the right hand of God.”

Colossians 3:5, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you…”

John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.”

The writer of Hebrews builds a long argument about how Jesus is all we need and I have quoted some of this above. The conclusion comes in 10:19-39. “Therefore…let us draw near to God…Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering…Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.”

2 Peter 3:14, “Therefore…be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace”.

It strikes me that God has given us very great reasons and motivations to continue in our faith, yet we require faith from him in order to trust his voice. We do not see Christ and will only do so upon death or his return, thus we look to our king with the eyes of faith.

As we understand rightly the times in which we live, between Jesus ascension and coming again, we see that these are the days of his patience, as Paul writes, “now is the favourable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). One day Jesus will return and so now we hold out his great message to all people that they will respond and know Jesus as their sacrificial Lamb who died for them or else the Lion who will devour them.

To find our delight in our God is I believe our heart and soul’s highest blessing.
Jesus is our very precious pearl, and he is the goal of our faith, it is he that we shall receive, he that will welcome us when we die or when he returns. Jesus tells us that he is going to the Father and so we should rejoice, John 14:28,

‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

As I have spent some time just reflecting and thinking about these verses, gazing on Christ as he presents himself in his word, I do not feel I have words to express the overwhelming joy that it brings me! Jesus is awesome, we are fully saved, we are going to heaven, we have a great, victorious, loving, powerful, saviour! Yet I know I am so little convinced of this, and still so distracted by the things of the world. But our God is gracious, and I rejoice in who he is.

Christ, having been offered once to bear the sin of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Hebrews 9:28

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.
Hebrews 6:19-20

In the world of today let us be those who eagerly await our saviour from heaven, with sure and steadfast souls!

Monday, 6 April 2009

Easter Rising – A Resurrection in the City

A man is executed in the most cruel way known at the time by a professional, imperialist army. A man who had challenged the authority of the political and the religious establishments, been a friend of untouchables, and claimed even to be God himself lies dead in a grave. End of the revolution?

The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate.

"Sir," they said, "we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again.' So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first."

"Take a guard," Pilate answered. "Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how." So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

Matthew 27:62-66

[After seeing an angel and the empty tomb] the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them.

"Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."

While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, "You are to say, 'His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.' If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

Matthew 28:8-15

This news was spread across the region, across seas and to people in other countries, of other cultures.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

1 Corinthians 15:4-19

THAT'S EASTER Death to Life from St Helen’s Church

Friday, 13 February 2009

The Countryside

Outside the city, there's a land called the countryside. Plants grow there, animals live there. When it snows there, it doesn't turn into a coffee-coloured slush puppy.

In England "The countryside" can just mean "outer suburbia"/ "commuterville" and the like. Let's take a safari through the real countryside where animals laugh at one another and rejoice in their characteristics.

As you gaze through the binoculars, ask yourself the question God is asking, "Are you God?"
"Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?" No? You're not God.

Job 39

1 "Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn?
2 Do you count the months till they bear?
Do you know the time they give birth?
3 They crouch down and bring forth their young;
their labor pains are ended.
4 Their young thrive and grow strong in the wilds;
they leave and do not return
5 "Who let the wild donkey go free?
Who untied his ropes?
6 I gave him the wasteland as his home,
the salt flats as his habitat.
7 He laughs at the commotion in the town;
he does not hear a driver's shout.
8 He ranges the hills for his pasture
and searches for any green thing.
9 "Will the wild ox consent to serve you?
Will he stay by your manger at night?
10 Can you hold him to the furrow with a harness?
Will he till the valleys behind you?
11 Will you rely on him for his great strength?
Will you leave your heavy work to him?
12 Can you trust him to bring in your grain
and gather it to your threshing floor?
13 "The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully,
but they cannot compare with the pinions and feathers of the stork.
14 She lays her eggs on the ground
and lets them warm in the sand,
15 unmindful that a foot may crush them,
that some wild animal may trample them.
16 She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers;
she cares not that her labor was in vain,
17 for God did not endow her with wisdom
or give her a share of good sense.
18 Yet when she spreads her feathers to run,
she laughs at horse and rider.
19 "Do you give the horse his strength
or clothe his neck with a flowing mane?
20 Do you make him leap like a locust,
striking terror with his proud snorting?
21 He paws fiercely, rejoicing in his strength,
and charges into the fray.
22 He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing;
he does not shy away from the sword.
23 The quiver rattles against his side,
along with the flashing spear and lance.
24 In frenzied excitement he eats up the ground;
he cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.
25 At the blast of the trumpet he snorts, 'Aha!'
He catches the scent of battle from afar,
the shout of commanders and the battle cry.
26 "Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom
and spread his wings toward the south?
27 Does the eagle soar at your command
and build his nest on high?
28 He dwells on a cliff and stays there at night;
a rocky crag is his stronghold.
29 From there he seeks out his food;
his eyes detect it from afar.
30 His young ones feast on blood,
and where the slain are, there is he."

Friday, 19 December 2008

Rise up and Raise the Bar, a City is at Stake

2 Corinthians 8:1-15
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you— see that you excel in this act of grace also.
I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, "Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack."
No job? Low paid? Smaller bonus? Wondering about your financial situation for the coming year? Why don't we think about ourselves for a bit. Cut back on our giving. Don't support the families and people who earn less than us but have greater outgoings. Let's not be gracious givers. There's a credit crunch, so stop giving to the work of the local church or to missions, maybe just reduce our giving, after all, who cares about the hungry, the starving, the underprivileged and the eternal salvation of millions and the building of the future city. At a time of financial uncertainty I might not be able to afford more potential rusty, moth eaten stuff. I better bunker down, look after number one. If we all do the same, we'll all be okay. God is sovereign, he'll provide for all the unemployed or for the voluntary workers whose incomes are reduced far more than ours as we reduce or stop our giving, and anyway, they're 'living by faith'. Let's test their faith.
Rise up and raise the bar in a time of "Credit Crunch./ Crisis". God is still sovereign, the gospel is still true and heaven is still certain. It's time to invest!