A Letter From Jim | August 2018

A Letter From Jim | August 2018


We’re working hard on completing Bryan Elliff’s book called SURPLUS: FEARLESS GENEROSITY IN 2 CORINTHIANS 8-9.

Here’s a portion of the introduction:

I can remember when I first took seriously the Bible’s teaching on money and possessions. I was a college student at home for the summer and Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was a topic of vigorous discussion among my friends. As I read and talked about those fascinating and memorable words of Christ, I realized just how uncomfortably countercultural they were.

We noticed that we had a strange tendency to nuance his meaning into oblivion; Jesus surely did not mean what it sounded like he meant. On the one side, we valiantly tried to rescue him from being too severe or demanding. On the other side, his words propelled us toward a new kind of obedience. I bounced between common sense and uncommon words, wondering just how it could be possible to follow his principles as a 21st-century American.

This kind of struggle is inevitable when we pay serious attention to Jesus and the other Bible authors as they write about money and possessions. That is because this subject, like few others, meets us in the practice of daily life. It shoulders its way in and takes a seat at our kitchen table. Face to face with such personal instruction, we wake up to the Bible’s countercultural call. That call makes us squirm at times, but it holds within it tremendous potential for growth and increased joy. The wrestling makes us stronger, pushing us to more courageous faith and sacrificial love.

In this book, we will revisit one of the New Testament’s compelling stories, alluded to in three of its books and featured prominently in a fourth. The Apostle Paul, responding to a crisis of poverty among the believers in Jerusalem, undertook the arduous project of raising a collection for them among the young churches in the Roman provinces of modern-day Turkey and Greece. As we engage this story, we will focus our attention on 2 Corinthians, a letter Paul wrote around the mid-50s to the Christians in Corinth. In it he devotes two chapters to the subject of the collection (chapters 8-9). Working through these chapters, we will learn why he was so passionate about this undertaking and discover timeless principles about lack and liberality and how God’s grace operates at the intersection of the two.

Paul’s vision of generosity is surprising. He opens our eyes wide to an expansive landscape of liberality which does not begin or end with us. We find ourselves standing in the middle of something far larger—God’s own generous program. This fresh perspective will motivate us.

A Christian leader once said, “Most of us only give enough to be miserable.” That may be true. Most of us have yet to experience the overflowing joy that results from radical generosity. There is something more for us here, if we will listen with the intent to follow.

We’re excited to publish this book which we hope will be the first in a series of shorter books (The Bristol Series) rich in backgrounds and careful in exegesis, covering a single text. It will also include a discussion guide for those who want to use it for mentoring or small groups. I’m hoping that we’re inside a month until production, but sometimes we’re surprised by the time it takes. Please pray for this stimulating book to make a huge impact on us all.

All this is happening while we are preparing for the marriage of our daughter Laura to Marco Scouvert, followed by their move to South Africa for ministry. And we just sent Bryan off this last Sunday after our church meeting to UCLA to begin work very soon on his PhD. Of course, they’ll fly back for the wedding. Added to all this is the ongoing work of our ministry, including a retreat this week.

Steve Burchett, Kole Farney and I are looking forward to several ministry opportunities in the coming months of 2018. Here and there we may be able to work in more ministry as God opens doors. As Bryan leaves the ministry team, we’ll be adjusting accordingly, but his book will be an ongoing part of our work.

Finally, rejoice with me and Pam that we’ve been married for 42 years! The photo above is from our anniversary night.

Thanks so much for your prayer and love,

With Joy,

Jim Elliff