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 God allowed suffering in my life (for both before and after becoming a Christian)

I grew up obeying rules and secretly (secret from myself, that is) thinking I was better than other people.  At nineteen, as I was beginning a slide into depression but didn’t know it, I was “called” into my bedroom by what I was hoping/afraid might be God.  I told Him I wanted to be like the Christians in the Bible.  God told me through the Bible that those who are forgiven little, love little.  But, those who are forgiven much, love much.  I thought I had little to be forgiven of so I told God I wanted to be forgiven of much and I thought it might be fun to sin.  God impressed on my spirit, “You’re a sinner!”  He wasn’t talking about your everyday church-going sinner that we all are.  He meant I was vile, evil and depraved.  I replied, “No, I’m not!”  He said again, “You’re a sinner!”  I said again, “No, I’m not!”

Then God did the kindest, most loving thing He could do for me:  He “blessed” me with mental illness (that would not be correctly treated for ten years).  The mental illness caused indescribable psychic pain, anguish, regret, and shame.  My emotions left me (but I didn’t know it) causing me to feel like I hadn’t really talked to anyone for ten years; I literally felt alone for all of those years.  And, my Pride was assaulted:  I was in and out of mental hospitals, I was humiliated because I lost many jobs, I could not do some of the simplest of things (like count money), and I despised being labeled mentally ill and a failure.

Why did I call it God’s “blessing?” because that was the only way for my Pride to fall.  I came to realize I was vile, evil and depraved; just like God had told me.  God called me again after ten years and I grudgingly accepted Him.  And God began the continuous work of changing me so that eventually I will have the beautiful loving character of His Only Begotten Son, Jesus.

But bringing me to Jesus wasn’t the only value of the pain.  God allowed that pain to go deep within to allow me to care deeply about the hurts of others; to be able to empathize with others, and let others in pain know I that have hurt deeply as well.  I use the pain God gave me every day in my job, as I walk alongside those dealing with mental illness.  (And, I also use the pain to understand others who have experienced pain, such as my children, who were traumatized before we adopted them).

I wouldn’t wish mental illness on anyone.  I wish I could have learned without the pain.  But God used the pain to win me to Himself and change me; and help me to care about, and be willing and able to serve, others.

And for that I will forever be grateful.

What do you want?

What a man wants is unfailing love, better to be poor than a liar.  (Proverbs 19:22 NIV84)

God created us to want unconditional love, to want Him.  It is better to be poor in spirit (know you need God) than to lie (and say in your heart you don’t need God).  Satan appeals to our desire to meet our own needs, be our own “god”, to be our own source.  Satan hates God, hates that He is love, and hates those who accept Him and His love… and return His love.  He hates God because God’s goodness exposes satan’s evil selfish corruption.  People worship (value) God because God demonstrates His humility and self-sacrificing care for them every day.  God puts our needs ahead of His own.  He is not only the Great King He is the Lowest (Head) Servant.

But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45, NKJV).

 Satan tells people to blame God for all the evil in the world.  Satan tells people that God is uninterested in them, in their struggles, hurts, cares or dreams.  Satan tells people that God is a nitpicking tyrant just waiting to pounce on them for doing the littlest thing wrong.

These are actually the qualities of satan and the opposite of the qualities of God.

God demonstrated who He really is when He walked on earth with us, in the person of Jesus Christ.  Read the truth about God in the Bible.  Read the Gospels, literally the “Good News”: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John at the beginning of the New Testament of the Bible.  Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, and proclaimed the coming of His kingdom where His kind of loving service would rule; instead of this world’s current selfishness.

Do you want a God who is a loving leader; who values you and even your smallest dreams; who has served your greatest need already by paying the cost of your sin so you could spend forever with Him, so He could love you, and you could freely love Him back?  If so, ask Jesus to come into your heart, to be your Servant and your Leader.  Spend time talking to Him and listening to Him through prayer and reading the Bible.  Ask Him to fill you with His Holy Spirit.  Find a church that believes and preaches the Bible.  And tell others what a great thing God has done for you.

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?

There is room for you at the "top".

Someone has said that Jesus’ kingdom is an upside-down kingdom.  Our Lord and Master, our God, is also the servant of all.  Our greatness is not measured in how many people are working for us, but in the works of love we do for others.

This attitude does not come naturally.  It comes super-naturally.  Jesus said we must be “converted”.  Jesus said that He reveals His truth to “babes”.  Jesus said that if we hear His message and receive it [do it] we receive Him and God the Father who sent Him.

(My son has given me permission to share the following).  I am continually impressed with my 18 year old son and how he grasps who God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are and their ways.  When faced with a problem, many times he is the first to say, “Dad, let’s pray.  Let’s ask Jesus for help”.  My son is brilliant socially and is one of the leaders in his classroom.  He also reads and writes at a second grade level.

Though some in this world would overlook him, I admire him.  He’s like the child that Jesus held in His arms and gave as an example for His disciples to be like.

I’ve explained to my son that he is smart, frequently pointing out to him when he demonstrates that quality.  But I have also told him that he is wise, also pointing out that quality when he demonstrates it.  And, I’ve explained the difference.  My son loves God the Father and Jesus His Son and the Holy Spirit.  My son reverences God and values God.  My son is teachable about God and His ways.  And so my son is wiser than some with multiple times his IQ.

Some value intellect.  Some value athleticism.  Some value popularity.  God values love.  Love for Him and love for others.  And true love for God always expresses itself as obedience to God.  Not that we are perfect.  But when we do sin we repent (turn around), ask God and anyone involved for forgiveness, learn from our mistake, and press on.

So my goal is to humble myself and be like my son, like the little child Jesus gave as an example to be like.  And the nice thing about Jesus’ upside-down kingdom is that there is always room at the top, or rather bottom.  All of us can serve others and be like Jesus.

16 He who hears you  [Jesus’ disciples] hears Me [Jesus], he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.” (Luke 10:16, NKJV)

21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes.” (Luke 10:21, NKJV)

  1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them,  3 and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  4 Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  5 Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.” (Matthew 18:1-5, NKJV)