As I look around at the state of the church today, one thought keeps resonating in my head: “We can’t stay here”. Here is the dead religion of our fathers. Here is where over two billion people survive on less than $2 a day. Here is where countless young people have turned their back on Christ and walked away from His church. Here is a world filled with hatred, deceit, murder, rape, incest, slavery, and pedophilia. Here is a world that has lost its way. Here is a church full of people who have the cure but are too afraid to step outside of their comfortable air conditioned mausoleums we call “church”. Here the world lies bleeding. Here there is no hope. We can’t stay here.
Archives For poverty
Every day we are faced with new struggles, new challenges, and additional points of stress. Life just never stops coming at us and it’s all too easy to feel overwhelmed. Satan loves to alter our focus so we only see what is immediately around us. We begin to believe our problems are bigger than they are, and that others have it so much easier than we do. When we take a step back and look at the world around us, we see our own problems to be so small in comparison. Still, they are our problems, our issues, and our frustrations. We are the ones who have to deal with them. We are the ones who must find ways to follow Christ through all of the obstacles that Satan throws into our path.
This is the last post for Compassion’s Blogger month. Over 2,000 new children have been sponsored so far this month, which is fantastic. To meet their goal, Compassion is still seeking to get another 1,000 children sponsored before the end of the month. Surely we can get this done. It is our absolute duty to care for these children in need (James 1:27; Matthew 19:14). We have been entrusted with much so that we might serve much. It’s only $38 per month. What could you give up to save the $38 and sponsor a child today? As you consider that, remember that whatever you are giving up is being traded to provide a child with education, healthcare, clothing, food, self-confidence, and most importantly the opportunity to learn about Jesus. They will understand first-hand what it means to live like Jesus as they see you model Christ in your own life.
The problems of our world are so many and diverse that it may appear that there isn’t much we can do about them. On the surface, this may be true; it is very difficult, if not impossible, for any one of us to make a significant impact on the major ills of society. You have, however, probably heard the saying “As one person you can’t change the world, but you can change the world for one person”. This is where we have to focus. On our own we may never make a dent in world poverty, but we can adopt a person or a family and make certain they have enough to eat. On our own we may never be able to give shelter to all who are homeless, but we have the ability to provide a bed and shower to a single mom down on her luck.
I watched a video of Haiti this morning and was struck by the looks of desperation in the eyes of the people. I saw very young children in alleyways looking lost and mothers sitting in makeshift clinics, their faces stoic and without hope. The earthquakes of 2010 exacerbated the problems in an already failing infrastructure.
These are our brothers and sisters in Christ; they should be full of joy, but the ravages of life in a sinful and broken world have relegated them to a life of despondency. Click Here to Continue Reading this Post…
I listen to a lot of sermons from various churches across the country. This helps me stay focused on the mission of Christ and at the same time receive input and encouragement from a variety of Godly people. Recently I was struck by two messages I heard back to back, as they were absolutely diametrically opposed. I will withhold the names of the pastor’s and churches as focusing on any single congregation would miss the point.
In the first sermon, I heard an impassioned plea for the people to give sacrificially so they could build a new children’s wing onto their church. In sharp contrast to this was the second sermon in which I heard the pastor contemplate putting a “for sale” sign outside of their church so they might give the money to the poor throughout the world. Click Here to Continue Reading this Post…
I was recently out walking in the early morning hours and got caught in a torrential downpour about three quarters of a mile from my house. The rain was coming down so hard I could barely see, and the drops were thudding against me in a way that had exhausted me by the time I reached the front porch. After getting dried off and into a fresh set of clothes, I was reminded again of the plight of the homeless. How many times have they endured such storms but had no place to find suitable shelter? How long did it take for their only set of clothes to dry before they could once again move about comfortably?
Every day we take so many things for granted. We are blessed beyond measure yet always find something about which to complain. We get hungry and we grab something out of the cupboards to eat; we get thirsty and pour a glass of clean water from the faucet. When we are wet, we dry off with towels and change into a different set of clothing; when we are cold we turn up the heat and put on a sweatshirt or a jacket. All of these simple everyday things we do, we take for granted. We don’t give them a second thought because they are simply a part of the fabric of our lives.
What if there were no cupboards of food and no running water? What if there were no towels, no change of clothes and no heat? According to a 2007 study by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, this is a reality for over 3 million people in the United States of America alone. Perhaps even more startling is the fact that 39% of the homeless in America are children. Worldwide, the United Nations estimates that nearly 100 million people are homeless; worse still, up to 600 million live in makeshift shelters that threaten their health or even their life.
Despite our obvious blessings, we all find much too complain about every day. We complain that we have nothing to wear or that there’s nothing to eat. Our greed and self-centeredness has blinded us to the reality in which we live. We have plenty to wear and eat, but our appetite for both food and possessions is insatiable. We have more than most in the world, but it is not enough for us; we must have more. It appears it is not enough to have our needs provided for; we have the audacity to complain that what we have isn’t good enough because it isn’t exactly what we want.
As followers of Christ, we need to be content with whatever God has given us (Philippians 4:11-13). We also need to be generous and care for those in need (Deuteronomy 15:9-11, 1 Timothy 6:17-19). Jesus instructed us to provide shelter for the homeless (Matthew 25:31-41). This is not the job of the government; it’s the job of the church. If we as a body cannot house the homeless and look after the poor, then we are not following Christ. We build grand luxurious buildings for us to gather on weekends but we look the other way when we see someone sleeping on the street. We serve lavish meals to build community with one another but we can’t spare a piece of bread for the starving children on our streets and around the world. As for those big buildings and large meals, we usually find some reason to complain about those as well.
Picture what God sees when He looks at His Church, particularly in the Western world. He sees a people who have been blessed like none other, yet have become fat, lazy and apathetic to the needs of the lost and the poor. Christ did not die so we might lead happy, healthy and comfortable lives. He died to rescue us from our sin and asks only that we serve Him in return. Apparently, that was too much to ask. We must all repent of our selfishness and greed, and for taking His blessings for granted. Beyond that we must do something to care for the poor and homeless. Working together we can eliminate this suffering from the world; we only lack the will. I have turned away for too many years and suspect you have done the same. No longer can we feign either ignorance or innocence. We have no more excuses and no right to complain.
In the Lord’s Prayer we are taught to ask for our daily bread. Most of us have never had to wonder where we would find food for the day. Our cupboards and pantries always seem to yield some sort of nourishment. Those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the West have more than likely never gone without food for an entire day. We are blessed beyond measure, and one need only look at the plight of the truly hungry around the world to be reminded of that fact.
According to WorldHunger.org, over 978 million people in the world are going hungry; that’s approximately one out of every six persons on the planet today. This is simply inexcusable for the world at large, but particularly egregious for those of us who seek to follow Jesus. We are told repeatedly in Scripture to feed the hungry (Isaiah 58:7, 10; Matthew 25:31-46; Romans 12:20; James 2:14-17; Deuteronomy 24:19-22; Luke 14:13). Knowing this, why is it that we are content to hoard the food for ourselves? I cringe when I think how often I’ve said, “There’s nothing to eat in this house!” I don’t think that has ever truly been the case. The real truth is there is perhaps nothing I am craving to eat in the house. We are so spoiled that we lament when we run out of a certain food, yet all the while we have more food in our house right now than nearly a billion people will have in an entire year. Our worst hunger cannot compare to their best days.
We must do something. The problem is large and daunting, but the God we serve is able to deliver the hungry from their distress. He calls us to be His hands and feet in bringing relief to their gnawing stomachs. God will honor and use our prayers, donations and efforts to bring His justice to this world. With the resources we have at our disposal, there is no excuse for a single person to go to bed hungry tonight. Let’s all do a gut check and review our expenses for the last month. How many needless material things did each of us buy? How much money did we spend on food that exceeded our “daily bread”? If we had only given half of that total to feeding the hungry, how much might all our contributions together have totaled? One person can make a difference here; a concentrated effort of all followers of Christ would have an impact that would resonate around the world.
Jesus made it very clear that His followers would show mercy to those around them, and he particularly pointed out feeding the hungry (Matthew 25:31-46). He made this a stipulation of being welcomed into His kingdom. If we do not feed the hungry, then we do not love as Christ loved. Our Western culture has blinded us to the needs of those in other countries; our suburban lifestyle shields us from the hungry in our own cities. It’s not enough to acknowledge and pray for the problem. As followers of Jesus, we must take action. Love is a verb and it is not passive. If we are to love others as Christ did, then we must act. I am not advocating that we should all become destitute and give every last cent to feed the hungry (although I do believe there is virtue in that). I am simply asking that we all, myself included, take a fresh look at how we are spending our money while looking for ways to distribute it to the poor and hungry instead.
Look into the eyes of the hungry. Let their faces burn into your mind. Begin to notice how much food is wasted in our country. We throw away so much food while one in six people lack food for the day. Here’s something I read about that we can all try. Get a large can or perhaps just a separate garbage bag, and put nothing in it except the food you throw away for a week. At the end of the week, weigh it and see how much you have wasted. According to the United Nations, about 25,000 people die each day due to hunger or hunger related diseases. How many lives might have been saved with the food we waste each week? It is sobering and it is not acceptable. Jesus called us to be His hands and feet in this world that has so much hunger. He called us to feed them. We, in turn, have become blind to the needs of others while continuing to satisfy our own selfish desires.
We all need our daily bread, but none of us needs any more than that. What if we all cut back to eating simply what we needed and gave the money we saved to feed someone who is impoverished? We can change the world, one person at a time. We can all make a difference if we would simply do the things Jesus commanded us to do. Don’t turn away from the hungry. God loves them and we should too. Determine today to make a difference in their lives; in the name of Jesus, be the hands that deliver their daily bread.
Many of us grew up with the perception that missions was the work of a select few who would work among the people in foreign countries and tell them about God. These missionaries were a group of super-Christians who marched to the beat of a different drummer and somehow seemed to always have a slide projector in their back pocket. Daron Earlewine, one of the pastors at my fellowship, recently said something I found quite challenging. He said that we have gotten it all wrong, and that we need to drop the “s” off of missions so all we are left with is the word “mission”. This is not for a select few; there is no such class as a super-Christian. For too long we have sat idly by watching others carry out the great commission, going out into all the world while we have sat huddled within the glow of our televisions and the warmth of our homes. If we would be followers of Jesus, we must walk out our front door and into the world. We must tell people about the love of Jesus and invite them to receive the baptism of His Spirit into their lives so they too can experience the love of Christ and join in His mission.
Everyone has a mission field; everyone is called, but few respond. The usual objection is that there are enough hurting people around us, so we do not need to go to foreign countries. Jesus said to go out into the entire world, and it’s true that your street is part of that world. The question then becomes, how are you carrying out the mission of Jesus in the place in which you live? If we grant that we don’t have to go into the diverse places of the planet, that we need to serve those in our immediate surroundings, then much is expected of us right where we are. It has been my experience that those who say they don’t need to go out because there is so much work to be done all around them, never seem to get to doing that work. Once satisfied with their excuse, they are content to once again insulate themselves from the very need to which they drew attention. We are all called to tell everyone about the love of Jesus; no exemptions have been granted. There are no exceptions to serving others in His name. It’s true that we all have different gifts and abilities, but every one of us can be a reflection of the love of God. Every one of us can point others to Christ.
Jesus came to earth with the mission of redeeming a sinful and flawed people. He came to serve those who were proud, to touch those who were sick and to feed those who were hungry. He came to show compassion to the weak and suffering, to bring justice to the abused and outcast. This is the mission of Jesus, the one He commanded His followers to continue to carry out when He ascended into Heaven. Two thousand years later we have relegated His command to a select few out of selfishness and convenience. We have convinced ourselves that it is the work of someone else to go and share the love of Christ to those who have never heard his name. Meanwhile we stew in our affluence, bathing in our own self righteousness, convinced if we will simply write a check every so often that we have fulfilled our duty before the Lord. God does not need your money, He needs your life. When we gave our hearts to Jesus, we surrendered our life to Him; we gave up all our dreams and aspirations so that we might pursue His plan for the world. At some point we turned away from our convictions and have decided that the American dream is more worth pursuing than the Kingdom of God; how foolish, and how ridiculous is that to actually admit? Are we seriously convinced that anything on this earth is worth more than the smallest piece of Heaven?
Jesus died for your sins and for mine; He suffered for you and for me. We – each one of us who have accepted Christ – have chosen to follow Him and to do the things He told us to do. If we are serious about following Jesus, then our life is no longer our own. We are now His hands and His feet, and our passion is solely for Him. To follow the instructions of Christ must be our driving passion; it’s what makes us come alive. Jesus said to take the message of His love into the entire world. This is more than just missions work for a few; this is the mission for us all.
Blessings from God are often measured in terms of material wealth. It has been so throughout most of recorded history, and it remains the prevailing thought in much of Christendom today. Whether that wealth is measured in flocks and herds or money and cars is irrelevant; possessions are seen as a harbinger of the blessings of God. Indeed an entire subculture has sprung up around this teaching, the so-called “health and wealth” theology. Subscribers to this thinking believe that the Bible actually guarantees that if you will follow Christ with all your heart you will become rich and experience an abundant life. This teaching is of course in direct contradiction to Jesus’ teaching of forsaking your earthly possessions and that the poor would be blessed, not the rich (Matthew 19:16-28; Luke 6:20; Luke 16:19-25).
What if we have it all backwards? What if instead of our possessions being a blessing they are actually a curse? The more material things we own, the more we have to lose. The greater our collection of stuff becomes, the harder we work to keep it all. Suddenly we wake up one day and realize that instead of being the lowly and humble servant of Christ we intended to be, we have become the rich young ruler who cannot let go of his possessions. Before we go further, let me be clear that I am not saying that wealth and possessions are necessarily a curse or even inherently bad; just humor the thought for a moment and open yourself up to think about this in a different way. Ultimately whether or not the goods entrusted to our care are a blessing or a curse depends on our attitude toward them and our willingness to release them for the service of Jesus.
When we are generous with our resources I believe it becomes easy to get lulled into a slumber where we dream we are not controlled by money. Meanwhile, regardless of how extravagant our giving may be, the probability is that we continue to pad our savings account and add to our retirement funds. We give much away, yet we also store away considerable sums for ourselves. But what if we stopped being concerned with saving for ourselves and instead poured all of our resources into building the Kingdom of God? What if we kept only enough money for ourselves to cover our food, shelter, clothing and transportation? Simply doing that would still place us in the top 15% of the richest people on the planet. Yet if we would so simplify our lives, how many more resources could be released to feed the hungry, care for the sick, and take the message of Jesus into places that have never heard? It is a challenging and difficult concept to ponder, and I will tell you up front that I don’t have the answer to this paradox; it remains a burden on my heart about which I continue to pray diligently.
No longer storing away for a rainy day or our own retirement comes with great risk. What if we lose it all? Who will care for our needs? But isn’t losing it all exactly where Christ said we would find true life? Didn’t He say that we must forsake everything to follow Him? When did we determine that those words did not apply to us? Perhaps we in our affluence have molded Jesus into a God of our choosing rather than choosing Jesus for the God that He is. The message of Christ has not changed; His message and mission are the same today as they were when He walked the earth. As Jim Elliot once said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.”
We have been numbed and blinded, and now we are in the precarious position of trusting our possessions more than we trust God. Don’t believe me? Try this test: by the end of the week, withdraw all your money from the bank and cash in any retirement and investment funds you might have. Take all of that cash, drive downtown and distribute it all among the poor. Please leave a comment below and let me know how you did. Is that ludicrous? Is it irresponsible to take our earthly wealth and use it for the things Christ told us to do? The only reason we find this to be a crazy idea is that we have become comfortable in, and seek assurances from, our wealth. What we may have perceived as a blessing is now a curse and an anchor because it stands between us and God.
Again, I do not have the answer to this dilemma. I confess that I have not fully liquidated my assets and given it all to the poor. I am haunted by my own lack of faith and selfishness, and am seeking God’s answers and strength in this matter. How about you? Are you at the place where you can give absolutely everything away for His purposes? Have the perceived blessings in your own life become a curse, something that stands between you and God? I think it’s worth pondering this to determine just how tightly we hold onto our possessions, and to examine how ready we are to totally rely on God to provide for our needs. Let us boldly and prayerfully seek God and give serious consideration to what He would have us do with our resources. Praise Him for all He has provided; glorify Him in all that you do with those gifts. Hold loosely to your material possessions so they do not come between you and your faith in God. Don’t allow your blessings to become a curse.