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/

Jesus loves Muslims, free speech, and freedom of religion

(This plea for freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and a statement of Jesus’ love for everyone was ironically censored by Google+. I have asked Google+ for a dialogue to learn what they object to and have not received any communication from them. Please read this post and let me know (specifically) how you interpret its ideas and why you think Google+ censored it, thank you).

I couldn’t sleep last night/this morning. So, I was on my computer and I came across a report on Loretta Lynch promising to prosecute any “Anti-Muslim” rhetoric “predicated on violence.” The writer of the report posed the question, “what exactly does that mean?” and answered, “possibly anything she wants it to mean.”

The America I grew up in (back in the day) defended freedom of speech and freedom of religion, though not in ways I always wanted. As an example, pornography, which in my opinion hurts those who make it and those who use it, was defended by the Supreme Court as an expression of free speech. Also, a certain religion that used an illegal drug in its worship was allowed to continue and use the drug legally by the Supreme Court when the court deemed it an exercise of freedom of religion.

I didn’t agree with those decisions but I recognized the need for freedom of speech and freedom of religion. I realized that the preservation of those freedoms for all outweighed my objections to specific applications.  Now back to Loretta Lynch’s vague promise to prosecute. I agree with Loretta Lynch’s end, that is I don’t want a backlash against Muslims.  All Americans (Muslims, Christians, Jews, Atheists… ) deserve to live a life free of fear. But what I fear is the means to this end; as the Obama Administration and this current Supreme Court have proven capable of deliberately over-reaching the law, deliberately under-interpreting the law, and deliberately making-up law. What are they capable of doing to the freedom of religion and the freedom of speech in this instance?

After courageous American Christians lost their lives by standing up to a gunman and proclaiming their faith in Jesus, there was no U.S. government statement about the protection of Christians that would follow, (that I know of). President Obama did not even acknowledge that there had been a “hate-crime” against Christians. But when two Muslims in California “bent on Jihad” (a tenet of Islam that instructs Muslims to kill non-Muslims) kill innocent people, this government threatens to silence any speech critical of Islam and similar followers.

Jesus wants all people (including Muslims “bent on Jihad”) to know that he loves them, forgives them, and wants them to turn from evil and join him in loving God and loving people. That is what I want too.

God doesn’t kill to advance His cause, He died

The “religious” leaders in Jesus’ day used intimidation and murder to keep and/or advance their power over others.  Claiming to be defending their “God” they could not have been any more against the one true God, Jesus (the very one who loves them and died for their sins).  Jesus said this would happen.  Jesus said that the day will come when anyone killing you (followers of Jesus) will think he is doing God a service.

“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.”  John 16:1-4 NKJV

 Killing in the name of “God” has been going on for millenia.  Jesus, who had all the power in the universe, did not kill to advance His cause of love, His kingdom.  He died, and more than that, He rose again, to advance His cause of love.  And His cause is to love His Father, and love people; all people.

You may be wondering if you matter; if you make any difference being alive in this world.  YOU MATTER TO GOD!  It has been said, God would rather die than live in eternity without you; and He did, in the person of Jesus Christ.  Now it is your turn to decide if you want to live with Jesus for eternity.

This is His character:

But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.  Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick, warning them not to tell who he was.  This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:  

 He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets.  A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory.  In his name the nations will put their hope.  “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.

I love the fact that “a bruised reed he will not break.” And “a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.”  I have failed at my own and others’ expectations, done evil, been hurt by others and have been a “bruised reed.”  I have lost hope, wanted to die, wondered where God was, and if anyone cared. I have been  a “smoldering wick.” How about you?  Jesus heals the sick, he doesn’t kill them.  He binds up the broken hearted, he doesn’t crush them.  He will take care of you and me!  He loves us!

And what else is His character?

If you will seek first His Kingdom (Jesus as Lord, that is, obedience) and His Righteousness (Jesus as Savior, that is, trust what He has done to please God for you) then God promises to supply all your needs.

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:31-34 NIV84

And,

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”  Hebrews 13:5-6 NIV84

Christ is still “dying” because of His love for people, in the form of His followers being murdered because they love people and love the Truth.  Jesus said that anyone who follows Him will never die.

  Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;
 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
 “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”  John 11:23-27 NIV84

All the people of the world may hate us.  But there is One Who always loves us and is greater than the world: Jesus.  And He said,

So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.  In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.  

“Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father.  In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf.  No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.
I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”  Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech.  Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.”  “You believe at last!” Jesus answered.  “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

If you want to know Jesus, He is waiting to hear from you right now.  He has always loved you.  Because He loves you He wants you to turn away from the things that you are doing and thinking that hurt God, hurt others and hurt you.  God calls these: sins.  I have sinned, and you have sinned, and that’s why Jesus had to die; to take away our sins.  If you agree with God that you have sinned and resolve to turn away from them, trust Jesus’ death to pay your sin debt to God, and surrender to the leading of Jesus through the Holy Spirit who will live in you, God will make you His child.  Go ahead, talk to Him, He can’t wait to listen to you, to love you, and to make you His child.

It took going "crazy" to discover what real sanity was

I am grateful to God for the mental illness He gave me.  (But I would never want to repeat it).  Looking back I was “crazier” when I was “sane” and sane now that I’m mentally ill.

Let me unpack that.

Before mental illness I wanted to be a aerospace engineer.  I wanted to impress people with how smart I was.  I wanted fame, fortune, power and pleasure.  I had bought the whole commercial-driven American media world-view.

Most of the girls in my high school graduation class wanted to be social workers it seemed.  I thought they were crazy.  Helping people seemed like a colossal, boring, unrewarding waste of time.

It was at this point that God publicly invaded my private world.  God told me I was a sinner, but I didn’t believe Him.  What I didn’t know was that I was in love with myself, looked down on everyone else, and thought the world should serve me.   That’s when God gave me mental illness.  And my life and the lies I told myself, about myself, fell with a great crash.  God humbled me.  I couldn’t get much “lower” in superficial stereo-typed status than being intermittently locked up in mental hospitals.

For the next ten years I fought God and the meds.  At the end of ten years God gave me the wisdom to take the meds.  Then He sent Bonnie, who knew and loved Jesus, to tell me Jesus loved me.  I wasn’t interested.  Then Bonnie told me that if I rejected the love of Jesus, the only thing left for me was hell.

That got my attention.

I chose to turn around and follow Jesus.

He forgave me, loved me and gave me a heart that cared about other people.  Now I am a Certified Peer Support Specialist working with others who themselves deal with mental illness.  I encourage, give hope, and care.  And I love it.  It took most of my life to discover my life’s work.  And it took going “crazy” to discover what real sanity is.

Why does God allow Suffering in the Christian’s life?

I just got done watching InTouch with Dr. Charles F. Stanley.  I was convicted that I may have been sending the message that once you are rightly related to God, through faith in His Son Jesus’ death on the cross paying for your sins, that everything after is peace, joy and love.  Dr. Stanley said that some things we can only learn as we experience pain and suffering; suffering from obeying God, and suffering from not obeying God.

Suffering from not obeying God makes sense.  God has the best planned for us.  If we don’t do what He says we can suffer the natural consequences of not positioning ourselves for His best.

But what about when we obey God and there is pain and suffering?  Does that mean God has abandoned us?  Does that mean it is pointless to serve God?  God says through Jesus in the Bible that when we suffer for doing good there is blessing.

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Jesus, Matthew 5:11-12, NKJV

I have personal experience of this being true.  When I first became a Christian I told a person close to me about Jesus and what He had done for me.  They hurled their vehement anger towards God, at me.  Later, they told me a very sad cynical sexually-themed joke and when I didn’t laugh they accused me of thinking the joke was funny but being a hypocrite and not laughing.  They continued to insult me personally and Christians in general as evil, self-righteous, holier-than-thou, hypocrites.  The experience was painful, God insulated me from the worst of it by taking it upon Himself, and I didn’t say anything negative back to this person. (I wasn’t strong enough at that time to return good for evil, the best I could do was not retaliate).

What was my reward?  Many years later I was thinking about what happened and I realized, that by obeying Jesus, and doing what did not come naturally, I had loved this person. I had done what was in their best interest.  I had told them about the love of God and demonstrated it by not returning evil for evil.  And that was worth more to me than gold or homes or cars.  That truly was a “great reward”.

It can be very painful following God, but God always works everything out for our good.  And He also works out everything so that the world can know who He truly is.  As Dr. Charles F. Stanley says, “Obey God, and leave all the consequences to Him.”

A Father’s Gift from God

I cannot imagine being a father to our two sons without their mother (my wife) and her godly influence on my life.

I am a listener.  I don’t have the need to talk all the time.  But when I need to talk it is an intense need, and the one I want to talk to the most is my wife.  She listens then.  And she lets me vent my heart without jumping in and “solving” my frustration.  I then ask for her opinions and we give and take; or she just gives and I take (when necessary).

When we are having trouble with one or both of our sons she doesn’t try to tell me how I should respond to them.  She doesn’t micromanage home life.  She asks me questions to help me see what is truly important in the situations we experience with our two sons.  These questions help me see critical things I am missing on my own.

My wife prays for me.  She knows that only Jesus can help me be a better father.  She knows the only one who can change me is God and she puts her time and effort in with Him.  She spends time with Jesus on my behalf.

Honey, many women do noble things, but you are my gift from God.

You can choose to go to Heaven

To me the best salespeople aren’t the ones who try to pressure me into doing what they want me to do.  To me the best salespeople are the ones who give me the facts and respect me enough to let me make up my own mind.  One of my former pastors, Rev. Dave Terhune, used to say that he’s in sales and God is in management.  My pastor presented Jesus, told how much Jesus loved them (by dying in their place, and rising from the dead to give them new life forever), and their response and the consequences of their response (surrender to Jesus and live with Him forever; decide not to surrender, or decide not to decide, and be separated from Jesus forever (Hell)).

Pastor Dave never saved a single soul using this method.

But God saved hundreds of people, using Pastor Dave, using this method.  Give people the truth.  Give them the options and consequences of those options.  And let God do the rest.  Because only He can do the rest.

Contrary to what much of what our culture believes, God loves you and everyone else.  In eternity past He thought: I want to make a Jim McNaughton.  Now God knew before He made me that I would reject Him and need to have my mind taken away from me for ten years before I would be humbled enough to accept Him.  He knew that I would hate Him when I was in that pain, for what He had done to me .  He loved me enough that he was willing to endure me and my rebellion, until at last I surrendered to Him.  Now I realize that all that indescribable pain was worth it.  On the other side of ignorance and pain is the realization that God suffered with me and for me and I was never alone.  Mental Illness was a gift packaged in pain that changed my attitude from pride to humility.  Looking back the pain was infinitely worth it.  And I would go through it again if that was the only way to know Christ.  But… I definitely would not want to go through it again if I didn’t have to go through it again.

I think it was King David who said, “Strike me, it is a kindness.” And his son King Solomon that said, “The wounds of a friend can be trusted.”  Just because I was in the worst pain I have ever experienced didn’t mean that God didn’t exist, that God was powerless to stop the pain, or that God was evil.  God exists, He gave me the pain, and He made it work together for my good.

Millions of people suffer infinitely more than I have.  I don’t know why God allows so much pain.  But, I believe that when someone hurts, He hurts.  I watched the movie, God’s Not Dead, a few hours ago and they brought up our Free Will.  God chose to give us a choice as to whether we believe, trust and obey Him.  Or, whether we do not believe, trust and obey Him.  When we believe, trust and obey God we experience peace, joy and love.  All that is going on around us may be chaos.  But, on the inside, we enjoy God’s presence.  When we choose not to believe trust and obey him we experience evil, or the absence of God.

God wants you to choose life, to choose Him because He knows He is the best thing for you.  He made you because He wanted to love you and wanted you to experience His joy in receiving and giving love.  But He respects you and your right to choose.  He will not force Himself on you.  When He made you He placed you in times and circumstances that would best influence you to search for Him and find Him and realize that He loves you.  But He also allows you to choose to ignore Him, and pretend He does not exist, and die without Him, forever.  He is not wrong for allowing this.  It is the outflow of having a Free Will.  If you say to God, “Leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me alone,” (active rejection), or decide not to decide, (passive rejection), He will do what you want.  And an eternity without God is Hell.

God is desperately pleading with you to choose Life, to choose Him.  But the only guaranteed time you have is today.  His arms are stretched out to you, His hands open wide.  But it is up to you.  Will you return His love?