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Meaning of Blessing

Daniel Boerman correctly points out that blessings should not be thought of as purely material (“Is Prosperity a Blessing?” November 2008). But he sets up his article assuming that’s what people mean when they say things like “God has blessed me with prosperity.” Does he have a foundation for such an assertion? I’m not so sure.

If the Bible uses “blessing” in connection with prosperity, while still implying there are more blessings than just prosperity, should not I also be able to use the same accounting? Yes, God has blessed us through the loss of a child, but should not I also claim that God has blessed us by fulfilling our needs?

We shouldn’t restrict the meaning of blessing to material things only, but it seems silly to imply that we should stop saying God has blessed us because of the good things in our lives. Not to mention unbiblical.

—Mark Nandor
Columbus, Ohio

Shoe Boxes vs. Goats

Nancy Visser suggests that the money we spend sending Christmas shoe box gifts to impoverished children would be better spent on food for them instead (“Christmas Giving,” November 2008). In doing so, she unfairly promotes one ministry (the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee) while denigrating another (Operation Christmas Child, run by Samaritan’s Purse).

 Please visit the Samaritan’s Purse website (www.samaritanspurse.org) and read the stories of how simple Christmas gifts have brought joy—and a message of

Christian love—to countless children who otherwise would have received nothing at all. These gifts have opened doors for local pastors and have actually changed lives.

 Of course, we also need to donate money to feed and clothe these children and their families, but why deny them the one gift they’ll get for Christmas? We could make a much better case for

denying our own children Christmas gifts and donating the money saved. Bet that would amount to millions too.

—Jan Rozema
Spring Lake, Mich.

I was saddened to read this article. Operation Christmas Child delivers gift-filled shoe boxes to millions of children in desperate conditions around the world. But the boxes aren’t just a “well-meaning” gesture to make these kids “feel better.” At distribution sites, kids receive not only a gift packed by someone who cares about them, but also a gospel booklet introducing them to Jesus Christ. The project empowers local pastors to reach out to their communities by inviting the kids to participate in a follow-up discipleship course. Moreover, Operation Christmas Child has helped open doors in countries normally closed to the gospel.

 Samaritan’s Purse is a world leader in providing hunger relief and initiating community-development programs in Jesus’ name. But let’s not forget the powerful impact of these simple shoe boxes. Like children, may we remember the joyous anticipation and surprised delight of receiving a special gift—after all, that’s what Advent is all about!

—Lauren Schneider
Chippewa Lake, Mich.

It seems un-Christian to push one’s own agenda by criticizing the good deeds of other Christians. Would the author of this article have preferred that the Magi gave animals to Jesus, rather than gold, frankincense, and myrrh?

—John MeppelinkGrand Rapids, Mich.  

Jesus on the Offensive

I think Nik Ansell misses the key to Solomon’s wisdom (“Jesus on the Offensive,” October 2008). Solomon used a test based on the best interests of the child, not a biological test. The woman who is willing to speak up for the child is the true mother. To reset their priorities, Jesus later sets a child in the center of the disciples as they disputed their rank. And dogs deserve food, as the Canaanite woman argues. The common theme is that justice for those without status or power is the test of God’s way.

—Kathy Vandergrift
Ottawa, Ontario

Christian Education

In her excellent article “Questions for Christians Schools” (September 2008), Sue Hasseler says that “if a school is committed to ensuring the flourishing of all learners and bringing Christ to every square inch of the world, it must embrace diversity and inclusion.” And she adds that “it will address diversity as a key component of God’s plan for his kingdom and a source of strength and joy.”

 Strangely, however, there is practically nothing in the article about the special problems Christian schools face in dealing with issues of religious diversity and inclusion. Such problems can arise in several distinct contexts within the school environment. For example, will the school actively seek, or even allow, significant religious diversity in the student body? Will it seek to enroll students coming from non-Christian religious communities or families (or even from anti-religious groups)? And what about religious diversity and inclusion within the faculty and staff? Are there some kinds of religious diversity that are beyond the limits for a Christian school?

 If a school espouses inclusion and diversity as ideals, then it will be hard to avoid taking some stand on specifically religious versions of those ideals.

—George I. Mavrodes
Ann Arbor, Mich.

Don’t Shoot the Messenger

The article “Don’t Shoot the Messenger” (September 2008) struck a chord with me. It has long been my opinion that “Christians” can be very effective in keeping others from even attending church. If one were to ask the question, “Why should I go to church based on your life?” it would be interesting to hear the resulting comments.

 Nearly everyone who came to an Alpha program I was involved with at church had at one time been part of a church. They left for many reasons, one reason being treated extremely poorly.

 I recommend the book Evangelism Without Additives by Jim Henderson (WaterBrook Press, 2007), which has been a great influence for me.

—Karl Van DykeGrand Rapids, Mich.

Missing Rev. Eppinga

Since my marriage to a lifelong Christian Reformed lady 12 years ago, I have been an avid reader of The Banner and will greatly miss Rev. Eppinga’s columns (see “Of Death and Grace,” September 2008).

 My wife, Tracie, had to give me a little guidance in understanding the gentle way in which many things get presented in The Banner. One of my first questions centered on an announcement that read very much like the following: “We celebrate with thanksgiving Rev. John Doe’s two years of faithful service to our congregation, and we now rejoice with him that he is available for call to another church.” When I asked Tracie about that, she explained that he probably did not get along very well with that congregation and was asked to leave.

 And now I look forward to Tracie surprising me with a gift copy of Rev. Eppinga’s book It’s All Grace for my birthday.

—Lary SakelDeMotte, Ind.

Correction

In the November review of the book The Underneath, two characters got crossed in the editing process. The character who “finally shuns evil” is different than the one who has been scarred by childhood abuses. We regret this error and any confusion it may create for readers.

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