Sunday, May 27, 2012

Practical use of resources

I've been writing on the value of time, energy and financial resources in the last few entries. So, how does this translate into a practical model for my personal daily investment of resources? First, remember that our goal as followers of Jesus is to use all our resources for His glory – never just a tithe and never divided into a sacred vs. secular dichotomy. As spiritual beings, everything we do (or don't do) has a spiritual facet or consequence. So, we need to take time to evaluate as a family what God is calling us to do with each of our resources. There are many ways to do this but each family needs to find a focus for ministry that fits with the talents, interests and convictions of each family member. If this is done well, each family member will be able to follow God's calling while being part of a team that is working together to achieve something significant in the Kingdom of God. In this way the education of the children, the jobs of the parents, the household responsibilities, the activities of choice and the use of time and money for the whole family revolves around a common purpose.
Though each family's situation is different, I would like to propose a possible distribution of resources using a drawing and then an explanation.
The inverted triangle shows the correlation between the level of importance a particular item has and the amount of resources that are allocated to it as a result. Some explanation may be required for my categories.
  • Family always includes one's self and the other people that you are directly responsible for or to. Obviously, if you are a single adult you have less responsibilities in this area, giving you more time for other things and maybe less money to work with. Consideration must also be taken for older families or wealthy families which may have either more time or more money. My model may be most applicable to a husband and wife with a few children at home and a modest income of less than $60,000 per year. Unfortunately, many people have gotten into debt and this eats up income faster than anything else, forcing the family to focus nearly 100% of their financial resources on themselves. This, along with a lack of personal vision for ministry, has hindered the growth of the church, world evangelization and help to the needy in our modern era. Just when both time and money are more 'disposable', we have tied up nearly all our resources in paying off debt.
  • I have combined the church and community into one category because the church should be heavily invested in the well being of its community, meeting its spiritual and physical needs. As it preaches the Word of God and testifies to the power of God to change lives, it should draw everyone in because of the daily demonstration of the love of God for everyone within reach, helping, healing, forgiving, teaching, feeding and caring for individuals.
  • Focus ministries are those people and programs which most embody your family's personal ministry vision. If your primary concern is orphans, you might adopt children, help others adopt children, volunteer at an orphanage and give to an orphanage in another part of the world.
  • World evangelization is probably the most important thing we can ever do, but this category refers to work beyond the walls of our house and the reach of our local church. We are to be involved in the Great Commission which calls for our prayers and gifts so that people of other languages, cultures and even future generations can understand the Good News of Jesus Christ.
  • Our government as well as other charities take responsibility to care for extreme needs and disaster victims at times. Taxes also provide aid, protection and infrastructure beneficial to our families and communities. These may be worthy causes, though they are mismanaged and often unjust in their allocation. I believe that except in extreme cases, the needs of a modern community can and should be met by the families and churches of that community, not by an impersonal and wasteful government hundreds or thousands of miles away.
So, our own family's current objective is to live on a reasonable amount necessary for our personal needs and completely avoid debt so that we can invest our remaining resources in the ministries and people that are of value to us (i.e. Christian education, multi-cultural youth ministry, leadership training and support).

Monday, May 21, 2012

Creativity

This is my 14th year teaching Humanities at ECA and, unfortunately, it will be my last for a while... It has been one of my favorite subjects to teach and I will definitely miss this interaction with my students as we observe and respond to art in its various forms and also create art together. I have certainly learned as much as they have and my understanding of art has deepened over the years. One important concept is that our capacity to create comes from our Creator and when we create using the images, ideas and talents that He has given us, we honor Him and His gift of creativity. Hopefully we also challenge others to think about aspects of life and Truth as well as entertain them with beauty, humor, drama and passion. Of course when we destroy or deface the creativity of others, we are rebelling against the creative gifts God has given us and dishonoring Him and ourselves.

One assignment I've given students these last few years is to create a piece of art at the end of the year which communicates some aspect of Truth. There are really only 5 categories of Truth and each one forms part of a person's world-view: 1) What is the nature of God? 2) What is the nature of man? 3) What is the nature and origin of the universe? 4) What is the purpose of life? 5) What is good (and/or evil)? The Christian world-view takes a particular stance on each of these questions and has fancy words for the study of each: Theology, Anthropology (with Sociology & Psychology), Biology (with Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy, Mathematics, Geology), Teleology, and Ethics. Mono-theists believe that one all-powerful spiritual being created everything and gave humans the responsibility to enjoy and care for it. Other world-views are based on other presuppositions (one being that humans are the products of chance, contrary to the first 2 Laws of Thermodynamics, and that any perceived purpose or morality in the universe is a biological or social malfunction of the human brain).

When the students complete their work of art, which might take a variety of forms, I have them present their project and the class analyzes the piece based on what they observe in it and how it makes them evaluate their beliefs. The project here was done in this year and shows how we perceive order and design and our desire to recreate it for others to enjoy as well.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Financial Resources

Finances are the third resource after time and energy. Some may consider money to be the most important or even the only resource, but they are mistaken. Money is actually the least valuable in the sense that it is the most easily renewed. When all your money is spent, a simple investment of time and energy can again provide for your needs with some left over for others. In a wealthy society, money is easily wasted or can be invested in others for their good. This is the true benefit of money, its facility for providing for others who may be struggling to provide for themselves. The danger is when the giver just gives money without any true concern for the persons receiving or when the receiver becomes dependent on the giver with no intention of providing for their own needs in the future. This is why the giver must give wisely so that their gift is not creating a bigger problem down the road. The missionary, pastor or full-time Christian worker is an interesting exception. They actually are freed to invest all of their time and energy in ministry activities because others are 'employing' them and empowering them financially to do what God has called them to do.

Regarding the poor, I do not want to trivialize their situation. More than 50% of the world's population does not make enough money to provide for their basic needs. This is a huge problem that is not usually a result of their personal choices. Many times the government is to blame because they administer their resources poorly or actually steal from their people instead of serving their needs. More people could also be helped by Christians who put their faith and resources into action – but Jesus has clearly stated that the poor will always be with us. This gives us an opportunity not only to care for the needy, the orphaned, the sick, the outcast, teaching them to provide for themselves and others, but also for all who most certainly need the forgiveness and hope that is found in Jesus Christ. The church demonstrates the love of God when it acts in a way that reflects His concern for both the spiritual and physical needs of those outside the church.