Haroldo Reimer: Time of Grace

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Haroldo Reimer: Time of Grace

If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it by sunset, because that cloak is the only covering your neighbor has. What else can they sleep in? When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate. Exodus 22:25-27

“In the biblical tradition, the sabbatical year is an important law and a tradition to safeguard the people of Israel. It is a time to begin anew. After a sequence of six years of work and also of economic successes and failures, the seventh year is considered to be a time in which social relations should be restructured.

The tradition of the sabbatical year is an application of the days of the week to a sequence of years. In the Bible three variables of the theme are linked together: rest for the land in the seventh year (Exodus 23:10-11), the freeing of slaves (Exodus 21:1-22; Deuteronomy 15:12-18), and the forgiveness of debts every seventh year (Deuteronomy 15:1-11)…

The seventh year became a special year of liberation. It is a Jubilee time, a time of grace… The laws of liberation of slaves and remission of debts constitute a profound intervention in the social relations of dependence in ancient Israelite society, establishing a “time of grace” so that the impoverished and indebted can begin life anew.”

“Haroldo Reimer in “A Time of Grace in Order to Begin Anew” in in God’s Economy: Biblical Studies from Latin America edited by Ross and Gloria Kinsler (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2005) 71-72.

Whilst I am traveling and ministering in Guatemala, I hope you are enjoying the insights from Latin American scholars on topics related to generosity. And the new header photo above is the time of sharing biblical teaching and practical tools with 28 workers in the G2G network of ministries yesterday.

Haroldo offers us keen insights on the sabbatical year in the teachings of the Old Testament as a “time of grace” mapped out for His people by their compassionate God. The teachings related to rest for the land, the freeing of slaves, and forgiveness of debts. They were safeguards to ensure that God’s people offered the needy a time of grace.

We need such safeguards today. These do not appear as not handouts that create dependencies but rather seasons of providing a helping hand so that after the season, the person is free to begin life anew. Some people might think this teaching as utopian. On the contrary, grace makes us such people in the New Testament.

It is happening now. After yesterday’s session (pictured above) Laura Mazariegos of Potter’s House came to me and thanked me for coming to Guatemala on multiple trips. She said the generosity and accountability teachings have shaped her life and service and influenced how they many live and work, and also impacted many ministries too.

What’s my point and how does it related to generosity? When God’s people lived out the sabbatical year, they gave a hand up with compassion and multiplied people of grace. In the early church, this led to no needy people among them (Acts 4:34). Know anyone who is impoverised and indebted that you could assist over time toward freedom?

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José Miguez Bonino: Four themes

Then [Jesus] said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Luke 12:15

“I would dare to point out at least four themes that run through the different interpretations of the Bible with respect to economics.

1. The condition of the poor—aliens, widows, orphans, the weak or vulnerable—appears almost always in the interpretations, even in the cases in which it is seen as a result of laziness or carelessness, as a challenge or a call to piety, almsgiving, justice, solidarity, or vindication.

2. Economic life is conceived always as a question of community. Rich and poor are always interrelated. “Economic destinies” are not isolated but related—in solidarity, destructively, or through dependence. In the final analysis, all are included as conflict, as demand, as promise.

3. God demands justice: Clement can see it as sharing; Calvin distinguishes charity and communicative justice; Duchrow sees it as a structural matter. But all, in one way or another, try to link the theme of economics to the demand for justice.

4. All these texts underline the risk that economic power represents, either by enclosing human beings in the realm of the material, by making them insensitive to the neighbor, “prisoners of Mammon,” or by leading them to the “idolatry” of wealth, of money, or of vanity.”

José Miguez Bonino in “The Economic Dimension of Biblical Hermeneutics” in in God’s Economy: Biblical Studies from Latin America edited by Ross and Gloria Kinsler (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2005) 41.

Bonino does a great job summarizing the themes linked to money in the Scriptures. Which one stuck out to you? I am in Latin America right now, and the point which jumped out to me was #2.

Latin Americans grasp the “community” aspect of money and possessions. As an American, my culture tells me everything I possess is mine, because I earned it. This thinking disconnects me from others. It’s toxic.

Jesus would say “Beware!” because such thinking turns us into rich fools instead of generous stewards. Our care for the poor is a reflection of our piety or lack thereof. God demands justice and care of neighbor.

At dinner last night I learned that a network of churches in Ecuador said they were raising money for missionaries and the effort reached its goal. Then, sadly, the funds were spent on other efforts.

This example of corruption in the church caused shame to be brought to the name of Christ and crushed local giving. Julieta Murillo was wounded from this. She said our meetings are “healing” her and giving her “hope.”

Today is a full day of meetings and biblical teaching with Christian workers. The goal is to multiply faithful stewards and equip national workers to follow standards to grow local giving. Appreciate your prayers.

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Elsa Tamez: Discriminate

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:27-28

“The plagues of Egypt are … to show the power of God in solidarity with the exploited slaves. God hears the cries of the exploited and liberates them. No biblical theme can be used to discriminate against or oppress another, as was done during the conquest. With respect to difficult passages, such as those that discriminate against women, some of us think that sometimes it is necessary to…cling to discerning the Spirit of the whole canon. This means that we will have to privilege the Spirit of the gospel, which, according to Paul, guides us toward justice, life, freedom, peace, and the dignity of all persons.”

Elsa Tamez in “The Bible and the Five Hundred Years of Conquest” in God’s Economy: Biblical Studies from Latin America edited by Ross and Gloria Kinsler (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2005) 10.

As I may change the header photo soon, for those who did or did not guess but want to know…Grace St. Catherine is the second puppy from the left. She is still with her mommy at the breeder.

I got to Guatemala City safely by noon yesterday and had a good first day of the discernment retreat with Paula Mendoza of Guatemala and Julieta Murillo of Ecuador. A discernment retreat includes fasting and feasting, listening and talking, Scripture and prayer, solitude and social time. It’s rich. By the end of three days God unites and guides us forward.

As we got acquainted, we each shared parts of our stories, and my respect for these two women grew yesterday.

Both reported with grace and humility, different ways men have treated them poorly in ministry circles. But they see GTP as different. It’s one of the things they love! The board, staff, and regional workers of GTP value the contribution men and women. We experience together the fellowship of our union with Christ.

Tamez, in using the term “conquest,” is speaking of ways Western culture has impacted Latin America over the past 500 years or so. One outcome of that has been the oppression of women with texts like 1 Timothy 2:9-15. In my doctoral research that text came into view because the adornment of women included plaited hair with gold and pearls.

From my research, I found that the text was not about the role of women in ministry but about disconnecting women from life revolving around Artemis, and instead urging them to center it on God. For more on this watch a YouTube video I did for Asbury and their Seven Minute Seminary.

So, after a great first day with these two women and hearing their stories and then in reading this book to inform my thinking about God’s economy in the Latin American context, this sentence struck me: “God hears the cries of the exploited and liberates them.”

My prayer for GTP in Latin America, in part, is that we can bring the reign of Christ to the corners of life where people, such as women, are exploited and discriminated against and liberate them. This is not done by setting up new social structures, but by unleashing and multiplying generous stewards who have grasped life in God’s economy.

Make it so, LORD, for serving those who cry to you for help.

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Pablo Richard: Reconstruct Life and Hope

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming. 1 Peter 1:13

“Today we need more than ever to reconstruct life and hope, especially among the most needy. Hope is not only a theological virtue but also a strategic orientation, a methodology, an inspiration, and a force in the search for alternatives where there is life for all. In today’s system of domination we feel beaten down by disintegration, fragmentation, the crisis of values, the destruction of social relations, violence, and corruption. Traditional institutions such as the family, the state, and democracy are in crisis. An economic and technological model that excludes the majority and destroys nature is imposed upon us.

Globalization with idolatrous and destructive characteristics emerges. Many are submerged in hopelessness, confusion, and spiritual disintegration. Others look for salvation through flight to an illusory world or through total submission to the power of law and dogma that repress internally all theological and spiritual creativity and destroy or ignore the dimension of utopia, of the Spirit, and of freedom in the construction of the reign of God. The popular reading of the Bible enables us to resist all these forces of death, and at the same time, it enables us to build pathways of life and hope.”

Pablo Richard in God’s Economy: Biblical Studies from Latin America edited by Ross and Gloria Kinsler (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2005) xix.

My readings this week will come from Latin American voices as I will be serving on a GTP trip to Guatemala ministering with our partner there G2G. When this meditations posts, I will have just boarded my flight.

Before I comment on this post, if you want to guess which puppy has been given the name, Grace St. Catherine, let me know. A remarkable number of people guessed correctly yesterday. Too many to reply too. I’m working on it.

It was as if Grace pursued and picked us. Speaking of grace, today’s Scripture reminds us to set our hope on the grace of Jesus Christ. To set our hope is to abandon worldly thinking to “reconstruct life and hope” for us and those around us.

This Guatemala trip has four aims. While I won’t get into all of them here, one is to help reconstruct hope and life by providing biblical teaching coupled with practical tools. This is needed globally, and especially among the poor.

If you think of classic generosity examples in Scripture, like the Good Samaritan for example, the dispenser of blessing did not send help, he or she came. That person met others where they were and aided them in rebuilding what is broken.

I’d appreciate your prayers for a fruitful week. Let me know if you want my trip itinerary for prayer. And look around you. Ask God who is “submerged in hopelessness, confusion, and spiritual disintegration.”

While generosity may appear as giving money, it also includes moving toward the broken with love and helping them reconstruct life and hope under God’s reign.

Spirit, help us do this. Jesus, hear our prayer for the glory of God, the Father. Amen.

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Robert Wagner: Unconditional Love

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

“A dog will teach you unconditional love. If you can have that in your life, things won’t be too bad.”

Robert Wagner as recounted Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Really Did That? compiled by Amy Newmark (San Francisco: Simon & Schuster, 2017) 90.

Since we are all sinners, we need more unconditional love in this world. Few teach us what unconditional love is better than dogs. With Joy’s passing, her unconditional love is what we missed most of all.

Sure, she kept us young walking at least an hour a day. And, she kept Jenni company when I traveled. But nothing matched the love she gave to Jenni, Sammy, Sophie, and me.

So we determined to look for another GSP (German Shorthaired Pointers). But it often takes months to wait for a litter. We did a simple internet search and, well, the rest is a miracle story.

On Wednesday, Jenni and I made the drive to Grand Junction, and then on Thursday, arrived at Peace Valley Kennels in Montrose, Colorado, where met these four cutties!

By the generosity of God, we got our pick of the litter of four female GSP (German Shorthaired Pointers) which is what we were looking for. But it seemed that one of them picked us.

We named her Grace St. Catherine!

She will be the third GSP to bring unconditional love to the Hoag family. Joy St. Clare was followed by Sammy’s GSP, Hope St. Teresa, who is 4.5 years old now.

The weekend before Thanksgiving we will get to bring her home.

God must know we need more unconditional love in our lives! It’s a miracle gift, which we are receiving as a grace. And that is her name. The question is, can you guess which one she is?

Reply and I will let you know if you are correct.

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Martin Luther: Common

He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever; His horn is exalted in honor. Psalm 112:9

“The dog is the most faithful of animals and would be much esteemed were it not so common. Our Lord God has made his greatest gift the commonest.”

Martin Luther as recounted by Tana Osborn in Until Heaven Then My Friend: Life’s Journey for Your Beloved Dog (Powell Butte: Updraft, 2013) 67.

God has given many gifts widely to common folk. Few as precious as a faithful dog. That’s what so awesome about our God. He shares such precious blessings widely.

Richness is not found in possessing wealth but in enjoying and sharing simple blessings, like a good dog. I pray today you will find joy in that which is common.

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G. Campbell Morgan: Waiting

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:13-14

“Waiting for God is not laziness. Waiting for God is not going to sleep. Waiting for God is not the abandonment of effort. Waiting for God means, first, activity under command; second, readiness for any new command that may come; third, the ability to do nothing until the command is given.”

G. Campbell Morgan as recounted in The Minister’s Manual edited by Lee McGlone (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2007) 478.

Joy St. Clare modeled waiting for me and my family better than any human on the planet. Let me give an example and explain how it relates to generosity.

Twice daily day for six years or so, after she ate a cup of food each morning and each evening we would give her a chew to help with arthritis from overworking her joints while hunting.

Joy loved that liver flavored chew. You could liken it to waiting for the goodness of God. Remember, ‘goodness’ in today’s Scripture is the Old Testament word for ‘generosity’.

Joy always waited with expectancy. She would walk into the kitchen and point with her nose to the cupboard where the chews were located and stare with her gaze fixed. She would do this for minutes.

If we forgot, often due to a variety of unexpected factors, she would walk over to us and stare deeply into our eyes. She did not whine, fuss, or bark. She stared as if to say, “I’m waiting.”

She exhibited the readiness of receiving the goodness that the psalmist wrote about, and she had the ability to do nothing but actively wait as Morgan put it. Thanks for the lesson, Joy!

What does this communicate to you about generosity? Are you waiting to experience the generosity of God? Are you waiting for instructions regarding how to enjoy and share what God has supplied?

Pause and reflect. Wait for the Lord. Keep your eyes fixed on Him, waiting actively with unswerving focus, like Joy! Do this and I am confident you too will see God’s goodness.

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John Calvin: Attacked

Contend, LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. Psalm 35:1

“A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.”

John Calvin in a letter to Margaret Navarre in 1001 Quotations That Connect: Timeless Wisdom for Preaching, Teaching, and Writing (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009) 170.

There is one thing I will never for get about Joy St. Clare. She only barked when she felt that we were in danger. Seriously, she almost never barked. But, if there was a stranger at the door, or if she was startled in some way, she would make this “woof” sound. It made us feel protected.

Do we make noise when God’s truth is attacked? Related to generosity, do we “woof” when worldly thinking on money prevails around us? This matters because it’s everywhere. We are cowards if we remain silent. Joy would not remain silent. Neither can we.

Live differently, especially when under attack. Give generously in defense of God’s truth.

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Charles Haddon Spurgeon: Fervency

So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was fervently praying to God for him. Acts 12:5

“Do we miss very much of the sweetness and efficacy of prayer by a want of careful meditation before it, and hopeful expectation after it? We too often rush into the presence of God without forethought or humility. We are like men who present themselves before a king without a petition, and what wonder is it that twe often miss the end of prayer? We should be careful to keep the stream of meditation always running: for this is the water to drive the mill of prayer. It is idle to pull up the flood-gates of a dry brook, and then hope to see the wheel revolved. Praying without fervency is like hunting with a dead dog, and prayer without preparation is hawking with a blind falcon.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon in The Treasury of David (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2016) 27.

Joy St. Clare (pictured above) was a hunting dog with fervency. God made her that way. She was a pointer, a German Shorthaired Pointer. When she hunted and caught the scent of a pheasant, she would point it and nothing would distract her focus. Nothing. That’s fervency.

Spurgeon suggests that we approach prayer with the same focus, the same fervency. It’s a brilliant word picture. When we hunted, we would constantly say, “Find a bird, Joy.” When she did, she would point when she either saw it or caught its scent. She wanted to be ready when it flushed.

We would hold her on point by saying, “Whoa, Joy!” She would point and not release and flush the bird until we gave the command, “Hunt it up!” Similarly, imagine being that focused in our pursuit of Christ! If He asked us to wait on Him, can we see ourselves holding on point.

We humans are not good at this. In today’s Scripture, God’s people were praying with fervency, but when their answer to prayer knocked on the door, they did not believe it was him until they saw him. Likewise, we are guilty of entering God’s presence without focus or humility.

What’s the point today and how does it relate to generosity? Consider this. God supplies everything for our enjoyment and sharing. Let’s fix our focus on Him with fervency, so that as He blesses us and gives us the opportunity, let’s jump to put His resources to work like a dog flushing a bird.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Dumbfounded and Humbled

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. You, Lord, preserve both people and animals. Psalm 36:5-6

“One day, a ten-year-old boy came to see Bonhoeffer. Breaking down and crying, the boy explained that his beloved German shepherd, Mr. Wolf, had just died. The boy sobbed as he told the story, but soon his tears stopped and he asked Bonhoeffer, with deep intensity, “Tell me now, Herr Bonhoeffer, will I see Mr. Wolf again? He is surely in heaven?”

Bonhoeffer explained in a letter to a friend that he was dumbfounded. He didn’t know what to say. Never before had one of his astute professors or gifted fellow students made such an inquiry, a question that Bonhoeffer could see meant so much to this grieving boy.

Bonhoeffer sat with the boy, feeling small next to his important question. Clearly Mr. Wolf had meant so much to the boy. The overly confident protégé, who had always been told he had a brilliant answer for every theological question, now sat humbled by the boy’s love for his dead dog.

Finally, turning to the boy, Bonhoeffer said, “Well, we know you loved Mr. Wolf, and we know that God loves you. And we know that God loves all the animals. So, yes, yes, I think you will indeed see Mr. Wolf in heaven, for I believe that God loses nothing that God loves.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer as recounted by Andrew Root in his 22 August 2017 blog post entiled, “Excerpt: The Grace of Dog” from his book by the same title.

Picture this scene. Bonhoeffer had a boatload of knowledge about lofty things, but he was baffled by the love of this boy for his dead dog. I can relate because I have had dozens of people ask me if Joy St. Clare is with Lord since her passing only one week ago.

The answer to this question is difficult to pinpoint with certainty from Scripture, though texts like the one above note specifically that the Lord preserves both people and animals. What we can be sure of in hard times is the love of God. That’s what we must focus on.

We should all feel small next to the big questions of people who are hurting. Being with them is vital to understanding the bigger issues of life. If we want to be brilliant (and generous), we must do this for those who have lost one they love. Sit with them and remind them of God’s love.

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