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/

Perception is Reality

The phrase “Perception is Reality” was originally stated, I believe in the Reagan era, to describe a lack of honest and complete communication in national politics.  Then it was stated literally.  And some accept it as literal.

Jesus was and is no stranger to politics during his life, death and resurrection. And the distorted communication of the past lives on to today.

I invite you to read the post, https://i-m-4-u.com/2013/09/11/perception-is-reality-lee-atwater-is-mr-atwaters-statement-a-perception-or-reality-jim-mcnaughton/

In it I try to describe the difference between the “official” public perception and reality.

What is Jesus like?

What is Jesus like?  The Bible says: 

He is the [exact visible] image of the invisible God. (Colossians 1:15a, KJV, brackets mine)

What is God like?  The Bible says

…God is Love. (1 John 4:8b, KJV)

What is Love like?

1If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

2If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
3If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
4Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
5Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
6Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
7Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
8Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. 9We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. 10But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.
11When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.
12We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
13But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.  And the best of the three is love.  (1 Corinthians chapter 13, The Message)

This is what Love is like.  This is what God is like.  And this is what Jesus is like.  He never gives up on us, He’s always looking for the best in us, He doesn’t keep a sin scorecard (our sins are wiped away when we trust Him that He paid the penalty for them), He doesn’t think He’s better than us, He’s not stuck up, He doesn’t force Himself on us,  He doesn’t have to be first, He cares more about us than His own life.

This is one amazing Love…

This is one amazing God…
This is one amazing Jesus.

New Motivation

Think of a good day you have had.  Your work was challenging but through hard work you gained success.  You imagined another successful step down the path of your career and you made it happen.  You felt accomplishment and relaxed at the end of the day with friends and/or loved ones.  Imagine this day being visually represented as a white card.

Now think about the time when you REALLY didn’t feel like doing something.  Something very difficult, that you weren’t good at, had little chance of success, but were forced to do anyway.  And you felt doing it would not ultimately benefit you.  Now imagine you feel real mental pain as you do this.  And once you are done putting in the intense, exhausting effort to complete this task, you feel no sense of reward, no good feelings, no sense of accomplishment.  And, you feel no sense of completion of the day’s work.  Now imagine that this once-in-a-while-really-bad-day of yours is visually represented by a light gray card.

To some with mental illness it is much worse… every day is a black card day.

Before I had mental illness I had a normal suburban middle class life.  If you asked me if I ever had a really bad day I would be able to tell you with conviction that I had suffered bad days, days I didn’t want to do anything, days as bad as anyone’s.  But these bad days were qualitatively different from, and quantitatively of less intensity than, my average day of depression.

When someone has a broken leg you can see it, you hold the door for them, you are sympathetic.  But mental illness is invisible.  The person who struggles looks the same as a healthy person.  An analogy that comes to mind is someone who is swimming in a pool and someone who is swimming in transparent wet concrete.  The problem is not only the difficulty of swimming in concrete, but the invisible injustice that others are seeing you, and judging you, as if you were swimming in the same water they were.

What are some of the ways “we” experience transparent wet concrete while “you” experience water?  There is so much that a healthy functioning brain does that I was not aware of until I didn’t have it.  When I was depressed my emotions shut down but I didn’t know it.  When I drove my car and the light turned red, my foot did not automatically come off the gas and on to the brake.  I thought: “The light is red.  I have to stop.  Why isn’t my foot coming off the gas?”  I had to consciously force my foot to come up and then consciously force my foot to go down on the brake to stop.  Everything that used to be automatic was now consciously forced “drudgery”.  This is just one of many changes depression made in me; none of them for the better. 

Another example of “us” swimming in transparent wet concrete while “you” are swimming in water – is income.  Mental illness (many times) lowers income.  There is a big difference in how hard it is, how long it takes, how much of the elements you have to face, and how much you can get done in a day when you can only afford public transportation as compared to having your own car.  When I am asking someone to pick up their meds, I am thinking of the half hour round trip it takes me to drive-thru my neighborhood pharmacy.  Someone else using public transportation may have to wait half an hour in sub-zero wind chill, or rain, or blistering heat, just to catch the first leg of their bus journey to get to the pharmacy.  And they may do all of this without the benefit of a healthy brain.

I just do not know the difficulties faced by others, and I do not want to deceive myself into thinking I do.  In another analogy, until they experience sight, blind people have no ability to imagine light or color.  And, similarly, deaf people don’t know what is really meant by someone referring to sound until they have experienced it.  Like them, I have no idea what it is like to experience another’s mental illness.  For example, I don’t know what it is like to hear audible voices (that no one else hears).  I myself deal with malicious emotions that tell me I am worthless, to give up, it’s no use to try to do this job, etc.  But they are feelings notaudible voices.  And though I might think I know a little of what they are going through, I really need to talk to them and not assume their experience is similar to mine.  I suggest to you that until you experience severe depression you have no idea how deep that pit is, how black it is, and how steep the walls are.  And you may have no idea how hard it is to survive it, much less get out of it.

Yet even though you haven’t experienced it, you care.  And I wildly applaud you for spending your one and only precious life on this earth investing in our good.  You could be making more money, with better hours, and less unpaid overtime, doing much more pleasant activities.  But you choose to use your strength to lift us up – the struggling.  I know from experience how hard it is to be mentally ill, and yet some of you have more compassion and give more effort than I do to help heal those whose wounds you can’t even see.  Much of the time you work without the world’s applause, (which it reserves for those who have truly noteworthy contributions to make – like highly paid professionals who put a bouncy ball through a metal ring ;>).  For those who cannot or will not, let me sincerely say thank you for caring about us and for putting that caring into action.  You will never know this side of heaven what you have meant to those of us who desperately needed your help.

You care and you act on that caring so I am not asking you to cry boo hoo for those of us who have dealt with, or are dealing with, mental illness.  What I am asking though, is that you consider the possibility that others experience life intrinsically different than you.  An experience of life that makes some of the easiest tasks that others do each day – and take for granted – very, very difficult for us.  And if you feel this difficult life is possible, grant us patience in proportion to the difficulty you believe we face.

________________________________________________________________________


The preceding was written originally for mental health clinicians to both provide a glimpse of what some of us mentally ill experience every day and to thank them for caring enough about us to do a difficult and sometimes thankless job.

I’m Listening

Have you ever noticed that we don’t have any “problems” anymore?… we only have “issues”?  I think we are so much better off.  And we don’t “make progress”, we “move forward”.  I know I’ve benefited immensely from that change.  But seriously, new words to old concepts bring a new perspective and help us freshly rethink meaning.  But the concept hasn’t changed.  We have.

What is the difference between “truth” as I perceive it, as you perceive it, and as it “Truly” is apart from distorted perception?  And, if you believe there is “no absolute truth”, do you believe that that statement is absolutely true?

Joshua 5 NIV84

13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”
15 The commander of the LORD ’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

Jesus’ Truth does not belong to Republicans or Democrats, conservative evangelicals or liberal universalists.  Jesus disciples included a former political freedom fighter (Simon the Zealot) and a former political oppressor (Matthew the Tax Collector).  They included common uneducated fishermen (Peter, James and John) and the intelligentsia (Paul).  Jesus loves all.  And all can be transformed by His Truth.

Steven Covey implied that you can only hope to influence another if you risk being influenced by them.  Why don’t we agree to disagree and still love each other and talk to each other.  Instead we accuse each other of “hate”, call each other “sinners”, refuse to listen to the other’s point of view, and refuse to allow ourselves to be influenced by the other’s pain.  Are we so insecure in what we believe, that we that we can’t allow ourselves to learn from each other?

Jesus’ enemies hated Him because His Truth exposed their flaws.  The people who loved Him (the common people) loved Him because they had the courage to acknowledge their flaws and accept His forgiveness and acceptance and healing.  In His Truth they saw the power of God’s love to change their life.  He didn’t ask them to first be perfect.  He asked them to trust His love to change them by following Him.  His enemies (the self-righteous religious crowd) didn’t want anything to do with Jesus’ love and Truth changing their life.  They loved themselves just the way they were.  They were right.  They were perfect.  Sound like anyone you know?  I know it sounds like me.

I was in the depths of severe mental illness for ten years while God proved to me I was a sinner.  It took that long, not because He is cruel, but because I refused to see the Truth.  I had to admit my flaws and my need of His forgiveness and new Life.  I wouldn’t wish mental illness on anyone.  But I would go through it all again if it was the only way for me to meet Jesus.

Our society is polarized to the point of dysfunction.  The answer does not lie in waiting for “the other side” to wise up.  The answer does not lie in political force.  The answer lies in the listening ear of Jesus.  And because He values you enough to listen to you, I value you enough to listen to you.  Do you value me enough to let me listen to you?

To whom much is given

There is a man I have the privilege of working with on a leadership project for our church.  He loves Jesus, his family, his church and more.  He has been the video production backbone of our team.

And he recently turned 14.

I wish I had had his wisdom when I was his age.

Luke 12:48b NKJV

For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.

This verse at first glance seems like a downer to me.  But this verse is like a coin.  One side is responsibility.  When God gives us much we are required to use it all and make the most of it.  The other side of the coin is blessedness, happiness, and joy.  When God gives us much we have the opportunity to love God and others with more.  And that results in ourselves and others having more opportunities to experience joy.

I believe this young man will continue with Jesus.  And make the most of his relationship with the Master.  And I believe he has much joy in his future: for God, others and himself.

Satan’s lie about God

Under traffic sources in the statistics part of this blog’s background functions are what I believe are sources of entry for those who read this blog.  I clicked on one of them and it went to a porn site.  (I quickly closed it and told my wife who was sitting in the living room with me).  Before I became a Christian I viewed pornography.  I eventually recognized its destructive influence on me and got rid of it (even before I knew Jesus).  But like an alcoholic who becomes sober and then stays away from alcohol I stay away from pornography.  And that’s why I quickly closed it and told my wife.  She knows the password on my computer and I don’t hide anything from her, in order to protect myself from falling back into slavery to pornography.

If you view pornography I do not condemn you and God does not condemn you.  God and I do, however, condemn what is destroying you and that is the pornography.  God loves people but He hates sin – because sin hurts the people he loves.

Sin is an attempt to get our God-given needs met outside of God’s will.  Sin provides pleasure for a season but it will never satisfy the human heart’s longing to be satisfied by God.  God is waiting for you to give up satan’s worthless pleasure and seek Him to truly meet your needs.  God said, you will seek me and you will find me when you seek me with all of your heart.  Satan comes only to kill, steal and destroy.  Jesus comes so that me and you can have real life!  Jesus called Himself the Bread of Life, the wholesome nutrition for our souls that we might have true pleasure, true satisfaction, true life.

Satan will tell you that God is no fun.  God invented fun.  Satan will tell you that God is trying to steal the little pleasure you have left in life.  God is trying to introduce you to real pleasure that builds you up, not satan’s counterfeit that tears you down.  Satan is trying to destroy us with pleasure-coated poison.  God is trying to give us food for our souls, what we truly need to be happy.

In the end, it’s your choice.  But remember, if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

If you want help please consider going to XXXchurch.com.  I have never gone to the site myself (for fear I would get targeted with spam from the porn industry) but I have heard good things about it from others.