Tag Archives: poverty

God Is With Us

weekly theme #4 God Is With Us*  

week containing the fourth Sunday of Advent

Immanuel, is a name that means “God with us”.  Immanuel, Jesus, stands near to me, wanting me to accept his love and desiring mine in return.  I would best show my love by going beyond sentiment to worship and obedience.  However, I am overwhelmed with material goods: a house with heat, cooling, running water, clothing, vehicles, books, electronics, and the list goes on.  All these things more firmly plant my feet in loving this world.  Those like me call those who have few possessions “the poor”, but I know in my heart they are not poor.  I am the poor one.  My happiness rises and falls by my possessions and comforts.  When I step back and examine my life, by what standards should I use to measure my riches – comforts or kindness?  Yes, I’m afraid that I am the poor one.

I can’t give what I don’t have.  That appears to be sound reasoning, and I’m sure I’ve used that line myself although I can’t remember when.  (I’m having trouble with my memory becoming slower and less organized, and that leads me to my point.)  Sometimes I can’t give even what I have.  When I consider myself the storehouse for what I can give, it limits my giving by capacity, access, and current relevance.  It seems better for me to connect to the perfect Source, Model, and Provider and let him provide through me.  Remaining a tool connected to the LORD, through the Holy Spirit, allows me to give two things I can never give from myself – everything and anything.

Sometimes I catch myself at the bottom of a page in a book and I don’t remember anything I’ve read.  Sometimes I realize that I have driven for miles and I don’t remember any of it.  I’ve been so engaged in a conversation (or TV show!) that I don’t notice what is going on around me.  Focus.  My focus determines what I sense.  What I sense impacts my feelings and thoughts, which produce actions (or paralysis), and determines my future.  God is with me, but do I sense him?  He has a prepared a pathway for me, but unless I sense him, I will not follow his path because his path is unknown and impassable unless he is with me. (Ephesians 2:10 & Psalm 77:19)

God has been with us since the beginning of human life, but Jesus’ sacrificial birth began a path for me to receive even more.  Through no merit of my own, God is in me.

*A Guide To Prayer For Ministers And Other Servants by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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God Supplies Our Every Need

weekly theme #48 God Supplies Our Every Need*          

week containing the Sunday between Sept 25 – Oct 1

This is a difficult concept for me.  The first reading for the week is 1 Kings 17, where Elijah is fed by ravens and he asks God to raise a boy from dead.  However, in those same days I’m sure other people were not miraculously fed, and people who died were not raised from the dead.  There has to be some concept I’m not grasping.

As I read Jesus’ words about his faithfulness in provision, I catch myself thinking, “Yes, but…”  The middle of Luke 12 has examples: verse 29 “And don’t worry about food…” and verse 31 “He will give you all you need from day-to-day…”   Yes, but what about the hardworking folks who seem caught between terrible need and no way out?  Yes, but aren’t there people around me every week who don’t seem to have all they need?  To be fair to God, I must include Jesus’ qualifier to his instructions on not worrying, “…if you make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.”  Will he provide for my needs if the Kingdom of God is not my primary concern?  What happens then?

I don’t know how to explain this, but I think there is a relationship between my needs and my generosity.  A lack of generosity seems to be a lack of faith, for I close my purse to others today to assure my bounty today or my security in the future.  Yet I need not hoard today or fear tomorrow if God promises that he has already prepared my path.  He doesn’t require a certain amount from all of us.  The size of what I give means a lot more to me, and those who know my giving, than to God.  God is looking for my joy in giving, whether it means out of my abundance or through sacrifice.  Maybe what I’m trying to say is that perhaps my “need” isn’t for more but for a thankfulness and generosity with what I have.

In 2 Corinthians 10:13, Paul uses the phrase “Our goal is to stay within the boundaries of God’s plan for us…”  Some things I think I need are only required because I’ve overstepped my boundary.  If I would serve within the call God has given me, it would reduce my current needs.  Since I tend to take heed to other calls as well as God’s (e.g.- to receive praise from others as well as God, try to do too much, or have nice stuff) my needs escalate.  I’m not saying I should always stay inside what is comfortable or familiar, for God’s plan is often neither.  Nor should all our boundaries be the same.  What I’m saying is that I can overreach what God wants me to do, be, or have at this time.  The results are for me to have “needs” that God never intended me to have.

Human wisdom looks like foolishness to God, and God’s wisdom seems foolish to us humans.  Such a case is God trusting me, as one of his followers, to reach the entire world with the Good News.  That assignment has been on the Church’s to-do list for two thousand years.  Coca-Cola reached the world in less than two hundred years.  What does this have to do with God supplying my every need?  Just as he entrusted us with spreading the Good News, he has allowed us to be his primary method of supplying every need.  Yet, just like the Good News, I cling to comfort and safety at the expense of the Greatest Commands and the Great Commission.  God does supply our every need, but the needs and supplies are not distributed uniformly.  That’s why Jesus stressed the need for us to be in unity and work as a body.  We must share who we are and what we have with others.  God does supply our every need, but he counts on other parts of the body to deliver what he has sent.  Like many of his followers in the USA, I’m hoarding both the Good News and other resources.  Why do I see people in need?  Because I see other people in excess.

Maybe the key is not so much God giving me more supplies for all my needs as it is realizing what God supplies is all I need.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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A Political 23rd Psalm

After Dad’s death, I was looking through his belongings and found something that I’m sure Mom cut from the paper.  I could not find a date on the clipping, but the reverse side was advertising ground beef for 39 cents per pound.  Take a look.

Society is my shepherd; I shall not work.
It alloweth me to lie down on a feather bed.
It leadest me beside the still factories; it destroyeth my ambition.
It leadeth me in the paths of a goldbrick for politics sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of inflation and deficit spending,
I will fear no evil, for the welfare agencies are with me.
Their generosity and their staff, they comfort me.
They prepared the requisitions that filleth my table,
By mortgaging the earnings of my grand children.
My head is filled with mirth that my cup runneth over without effort;
Surely, the taxpayers shall care for me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of a parasite forever.

So it seems concern about government programs is an old issue.  But this “psalm” gives me concern.  I’m concerned that someone believed this sarcastic rewrite of the 23rd Psalm was the proper response to the poor.  In fact, to me, being “poor” means that I lack something, and we all lack something.  Usually people think being poor is lacking money or material goods, but I can also lack friendships, understanding, spirituality, listening skills, hope, self-esteem, humility, job skills, good health, and a hundred other things.  We are all poor, and we all need help.

I don’t see this song as helping anything.  It seems to judge rather than understand and redeem.  It seems to forget that we each can learn something from one another.  It seems to forget that each of us has some  kind of poverty, even if I deny it exists.  It ignores that I have little room to mock and degrade people who are poor in a different way than me.

I wager to say that most of us have some kind of poverty that seems to cling to us.  A kind of poverty that sucks the strength and hope from us.  We  try to fill that lack by hard work, wrong choices, determination, trying again, and failing again.  Getting out of poverty, all kinds of poverty, can be a struggle.  The struggle isn’t always just with ourselves, as this “psalm” implies.  The struggle may be with systems, lack of support, or no foothold to start the journey.   That’s where we all need to help.  Perhaps the worst kind of poverty is a lack of friendships.  My friendships have aided me in many a problem, and this aid started with my family.  Life can be  incredibly hard without a healthy, uplifting family.  Thankfully I only know that fact secondhand, many people know it up close and personal.

So the best thing I can do is to help those who are ready to help themselves and pray for those who aren’t.  If each one of us helped the other, I believe we would see less poverty of all kinds.  We would  have richer lives if for no other reason than that we would have each other.

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Two Thoughts On Two Books

I’ve already commented on the books Radical and Fast Living, but I want to add a couple additional thoughts.  I missed two very important things.

In Fast Living, Todd suggests that people living on less than $2 per day are extremely poor.  I don’t think too many of us would disagree with that.  However, he feels that saying  all people in the USA are also poor, just in other ways,* tends to minimize the tremendous difference between being materially poor and poor in “other ways”.  I agree.

Are there some people in the USA who suffer daily because they are intellectually, emotionally, or spiritually poor?  Absolutely.  Do they all suffer to the same degree as those living in extreme material poverty?  Probably not.   Material poverty has unique consequences.  One of them is a lack of options to help their condition.  People in the USA who are intellectually, emotionally, or spiritually poor have options for help.  True, they may not use them, but options are available.

I think it is important to acknowledge the fact that human beings can be in need spiritually, intellectually, or emotionally.   These are real needs that need addressed.  But calling them “poor” tends  to do a disservice to the materially poor.  Is there a way to describe these conditions without using the word “poor”?  Perhaps it’s as simple as a synonym.  Here are a few nominees: needy, weak, challenged, or feeble.  Just a thought.

*concept  drawn from When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert

As for the book Radical, I realized that I failed to mention one of Platt’s most clear presentations – the Americanization of Christianity.  My first thought was to politics.  There seem to be a lot of Christians with some pretty strong opinions about how the government should handle certain national issues.  On occasion I’ve asked the opinion giver, “As far as you understand Jesus’ words and life, how do you think he would respond to this issue?”  The replies are usually, “I don’t know BUT…” and they repeat something they heard on talk radio or 24/7 TV news.  Who are we listening to?  Who do we follow?  What are we to do?

Honestly, I don’t know how Jesus would respond either.  And that bothers me.  I am so ignorant of my Lord that I can’t apply his principles to everyday life.  Or maybe deep inside of me I do know how he would respond and I don’t like it.  So I ignore it.  I’m not sure which is worse – neglectful ignorance or deliberate disobedience. 

Platt’s book has pushed me to become more knowledgeable and obedient to the one I declare as my Lord.  For me, any other choice is a fraud.

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Fast Living

The secondary title to this book by Scott Todd is “How the Church will end extreme poverty.”

Basically the first half of the book does two things: it tells what causes extreme poverty and it gives us a pep talk.  I’m really glad for the pep talk because ending extreme poverty sounds impossible.  But he does a great job showing our progress in eliminating poverty and explaining our roles for the final leg of the journey.  I really think it’s worth the read, but pray before you read it.  It has the potential to end up like one of those “starving children” ads on TV that is just easier to turn off than face the reality.  So pray that God will give you the will and courage to read it with an open mind.

For much more on the book and movement, see www.live58.org.

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