How do you solve poverty?

4 Will evildoers never learn— those who devour my people as men eat bread and who do not call on the LORD?
5 There they are, overwhelmed with dread, for God is present in the company of the righteous.
6 You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor, but the LORD is their refuge.

Isaiah chapter 14, NIV84

Those with money many times prey upon the poor – check cashing charges, fees for “plastic” money and money orders, cash advance charges, ever rising rent when the costs to the owner stay the same, higher prices for those trapped in the inner city without transportation for the same goods that cost less in neighborhoods that have customers that can shop around, lack of the volume discounts the rich enjoy, higher interest rates for loans to those who have the least money to pay for it.

Satan’s kingdom (fear-based, selfishness-based and money-based) is founded on “what can I get out of you?”  Jesus’ kingdom (love-based) is founded on “what can I give to you?”

I believe heaven’s economy will be the opposite of ours.  We will dream of what we can do for others, ask Jesus for the resources to do it, work with those resources in His strength and give away what we make, our only payment is the joy we receive when we give joy to others.

What would happen if we stopped giving hand-outs that are barely enough to survive on, and we made helping the poor become self-sustaining the same priority President John F. Kennedy gave making the United States the first on the moon?  What about asking those who are challenged what they thought we could do to help them?  What if we stopped being prejudice and gave jobs to those who would otherwise end up in jail because they can’t find someone who will hire them for honest work?

What would happen if I actually went about tangibly demonstrating the actions of the love of Jesus instead of just singing about it in my church or car?

I invite you to discover how you and I can allow Jesus to lift our challenged brothers and sisters.  I invite you to discover:  The Open Table  http://www.theopentable.org/

“Quote”-able: Wintley Phipps

It is in the quiet crucible of your personal, private sufferings that your noblest dreams are born and God’s greatest gifts are given.

During my “personal, private sufferings” I may not have wanted to read this.  All the courage that I imagine I have when not suffering abandons me in the face of real suffering.  All that I thought stood by me I realize can’t help me.  Sometimes even Jesus seems as though he has left me.

I am alone.  And I am afraid.

As I obey my best guess as to God’s will my soul aches and I search for God in my circumstance.

It is here that I decide that no one should have to go through what I am going through alone.  If I only had someone to talk to I could bear it.  I decide if I encounter anyone struggling as I am, I will help them.

And a dream is born.

My dream, forged in the late seventies and early eighties, when I had not yet decided to take meds regularly and  I had yet to welcome Christ into my heart, is being lived out now 35 years later (with Jesus and with meds).  As a Certified Peer Support Specialist I have the privilege to serve people dealing with mental illness every day.  I am doing, as Whitley Phipps says, HPLP: Helping People Live their Potential.  Or, as Jesus says, Loving others.

Am I a hero?  Not even close.  But I am privileged to serve the real Heroes;  people who fight horrific battles in their mind and in their life every day and keep on fighting.  Battling thoughts that no one should have to experience, making even the simplest daily tasks excruciatingly difficult.

Mental illness takes the most hospital beds in our country and receives the lowest per patient funding in our country of any disease.  It is projected that half of our population will experience mental illness in their lifetime.  If that is not you then it is most likely someone you love.  And it is much cheaper to pay for treatment for all who need it than to pay the costs that untreated mental illness cause: personal, family and friend suffering; lost productivity; prison cells and hospital beds.

What can we do?  Get treatment for yourself or your loved one, treat the mentally ill with the respect being a Hero deserves, and vote for funding of Mental Health in your area.

Confict? Old and New Testament concerning "Did God pass the "test"? (posted Sunday 9/29/13)

Three years ago our family double tithed (gave 20% of our income) for the month of September.  I got the job of my dreams and many other things happened that were wonderful.  Then I listen to Andrew Farley’s interpretation of tithing more recently: The New Testament Church is not given a command to obey the Law or to tithe.  We are commanded to love, by walking with and keeping in step with the Spirit.  Specifically relating to giving we are told to give generously what we want to give, not under compulsion; that is, with joy.  So is the New Testament in conflict with the Old Testament?

Not at all.

Jesus said, “It is for freedom I have set you free.”  And, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  The Law was a fixed command.  But now Jesus and God live in us by the Holy Spirit.  Jesus can tell us exactly what He wants, He can customize His will to our unique situation.  And we can freely choose to do what He wants us to do.  And reap the positive consequences of obeying the One Who Loves Us Most.

Until Jesus tells me otherwise, we will tithe (out of our own free will).  Not because we feel obligated by law.  But because we love Jesus.

When God loves another through you, all three of you are blessed.

One man gives freely, yet gains even more;
another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.
A generous man will prosper;
he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.
Proverbs 11:24-25 NIV84

He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, 
and he will reward him for what he has done.
Proverbs 19:17 NIV84

A generous man will himself be blessed, 
for he shares his food with the poor.
Proverbs 22:09 NIV84

He who oppresses the poor 
shows contempt for their Maker, 
but whoever is kind to the needy 
honors God.
Proverbs 14:31 NIV84

Seek first his kingdom (Jesus is the King) 
and his righteousness (Jesus gives us His righteousness),
and all these things (food, clothing and shelter)
will be added unto you as well.
Matthew 6:33

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 
‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  
When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  
Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  
And the King will answer and say to them, 
‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, 
you did it to Me.’ 
Matthew 25:37-40 NKJV

When I don’t give freely for the benefit of others one of the reasons is that I fear I won’t have enough for myself.  I used to force myself to give and when I did give I would find no joy in it at all.  But the above verses point to another way.  What would happen to my giving – and to me – if I didn’t have to worry about running out of money (resources)?  What would happen if, when God told me to give more than I thought I could afford, I trusted God to miraculously provide what I needed ?  God, who wrote the above verses, and who cannot lie, said that if I am generous I will: gain even more, prosper, be refreshed, be rewarded, be blessed, and honor God.

But being generous takes guts.  I have to rely on the unseen.  My only guarantee that my finances will work out is that God’s Word promises God will come through for me when I obey Him.  I have to put Him to the test.  But when I do put Him to the test, He comes through and I experience His joy.

Satan doesn’t like this, and always throws doubt into my mind, trying to get me to believe the lie that God doesn’t fulfill His promises.  Satan says, “It’s a coincidence.”  “That would have happened anyway.”  “People will think you’re crazy if you tell them, ‘God did it miraculously.'”  But if you give God the credit due Him, He will provide you a list of proofs.  My more recent list includes:  When neither my wife nor I had a job and we decided to continue giving to the ministries we usually give to, at the same level as we always had – we always had enough to pay the bills each month.  We tithe, and without me looking for it, I received an email from out of nowhere advertising the job of my dreams.  I was hired for the job of my dreams while doing a double tithing challenge.  I needed hearing aids to do my new job and God provided them for me though the sacrificial giving of others.

The biggest benefit of giving isn’t in the pocketbook but in the soul.  I enjoy giving now (except for the times I don’t have the guts to trust God).  And I don’t give to get rich.  I’ve specifically asked God not to make me rich and not to make me poor, but to give me what I need for today and tomorrow.

 “Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die:
 Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.
 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’  Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.
Proverbs 30:7-9 NIV84

 When I held onto what I had with a tight fist I didn’t have enough.  When I opened my hand to help others, God refilled my open hand to give again and again.  God wants to do good through you, won’t you trust Him enough to let Him?

I wasn’t a "Cheerful" giver

Much of the time I have the wrong attitude about giving.  I give out guilt or compulsion, out of a feeling of “I have to, it’s expected.”  I feel bad before, during and after the giving.  It’s a bad experience.  I had read in the Bible that God loves a cheerful giver.  I wondered what that meant.  Cheerful has the same root word as “hilarious”.  I knew I wasn’t feeling that when I gave.  I asked God to make me a hilarious giver.

Our friends needed some money and so I asked God if my wife and I could give with “hilarity.”  We gave them some money and we felt great.  We were so happy that God was providing what they needed, that their needs were being met and that God had graciously allowed my wife and me to be a part of this miracle.  Jesus said, “Give and it will be given back to you. Pressed down, shaken together and running over into your lap.”  It wasn’t money that was given back to us.  It was something far more valuable.  We were given “Joy”, a heart filled with “Hilarity.”

I have long since forgotten about the money I spent on myself that year.  But I will always remember how God had mercy on me and filled me with “Hilarity” simply because I asked Him to enable me to do what He desired.