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.

Why Give?

The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is servant
to the lender.
Proverbs 22:07 NIV84


Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?  But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts?  Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. James 2:5-9 NKJV

Darwin suggested that the “strong” were to win out over the “weak”; the survival of the “fittest,” and the extinction of the rest.  But what if the rich are allowed their riches by God in order to give the rich the opportunity to bless the poor?  Not forced redistribution of wealth that the socialist advocates, but a freewill chance to love like Jesus loves.  The rich could provide resources and knowledge to those who lack them.

What if the poor has something to offer the rich?  “Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith…?”  The poor could help the rich see past this material world, which operates on the principle of selfish gain; to see another world: A world which operates on the principle of loving service, powered by God’s love flowing through each of us to the other.  This world’s system operates on the basis of “what’s in it for me?”  Jesus’ system operates on the basis of: “God, what can you give others through me?”  It is a battle of the “get” (or “greed”) versus the “give” (or “love”) systems of thinking.

Complementariness, or each providing what the other lacks, is a theme that runs through God’s creation.  Unequal distribution of wealth (and faith) is no accident.  God made us each of equal value to Him, but unequal in our various abilities.  This is so we come to realize that we need each other.  This is so we can truly bless each other by giving some of what we have more than enough of (resources or faith), and giving it to the other, to meet each other’s needs.

And when God gives to you and me, and we each give to each other, the joy you and I and God share with each other, will tell a dying world where to find God.

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?