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Archive for the ‘poverty’ Category

“Don’t ask what the world needs.
Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Howard Thurman (Christian clergyman, author, and activist)

Analyze where the Christian church stands today.  Take an honest look at the standing of one of the most treasured institutions of society.  Make an earnest appraisal of the modern church.  See where the church stands today.

For far too long, in the eyes of many, the church has remained in isolation.  In the opinion of some, the church has appeared inactive, almost docile, dormant and dulled, if not deadened.  Others have said that the church has simply dwindled into a state of sheer ineffectiveness.

George Barna has studied and evaluated the church for years.  Henry Blackaby has shared some insights and findings as well.  John Maxwell has offered multiple volumes on Christian leadership.  Rick Warren weighed in with The Purpose Driven Church.  There is no shortage of Christian perspectives of what the church is not and where the church has fallen short.

Don’t disregard the Reformation or the Great Awakening.  Don’t toss aside the Progressives or the Abolitionists.  Do not forsake the social activism of Prohibition and the Salvation Army, YMCA, and YWCA.  Don’t forget how Christians fought Darwinism and the teaching of evolutionism in the U.S. school system.  Forget not Azusa Street and the likes of Oral Roberts or Billy Graham.  Do not frown upon the church’s role in the Civil Rights Movement, the anti-war protests, and the pro-life debates.  Consider all of the church’s storied past.

Recall that the church has been called to be more than a building.  The church has a calling as the body of Christ.  Look at Luis Palau, Chuck Colson and Prison Fellowship, and the countless missionaries and ministries that exist today.  See how many are fed, clothed, sheltered and ministered to through street ministries and storefronts alike.  See the church playing an active role in society.

Do not grapple with public opinion.  Do not spend hour upon hour debating with the church’s critics.  Stand proudly and boldly to be counted among the many who diligently serve the Lord by doing all that they can with what little they have for “the least of these.”



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8But you must defend
those who are helpless
and have no hope.
9Be fair and give justice
to the poor and homeless
– Proverbs 31:8-9 (CEV)
We all should question ourselves.  We must answer for what we do and we fail to do.
I love the opening chapter of The Street Lawyer by John Grisham, I love the line of questioning by one of D.C.’s homeless brothers to a room of high-priced attorneys whom he has taken hostage of in their office:
  1. How much money did you make last year?
  2. How much money did you give to charity (to the poor and the needy) last year?

Doesn’t that make sense to you? Do the math.  #1 may outweigh #2, but there needs to be some actual figures for each one of those.  For instance, if #1 for you is $100,000 and #2 is $10,000, then you have given 10% of your income to charity.  No matter if you gave to the animal shelter, the rescue mission or the youth ceneter, that money went towards people doing good works.
 

It reminds me of an old school Hollywood flick called Boys Town.  I saw it before Ted Turner started touching up the old black and white movies, but even after it has been remastered, it still has an old school flavor to it.  Spencer Tracy plays an inner city priest who watches over a flock of unwanted urban youth, offering them compassion and hope despite poverty and the dire conditions of the city life.  It reminds me of Sleepers.  The one where Dinero plays the priest who is smoking either Pall Malls or Lucky Strikes.  He plays the part where he offers an alibi for the kids-turned-adults who murder an abusive juvenile detention center guard.  That was “Sleepers,” not “Boys Town.”  They’re not the same movie or even the same type of movie, but they have similar characters.  They have the guy- whether he’s a priest or not- who looks out for the youth of the community beyond their spiritual needs and offers a role model or father figure for them to look up to and see working within the community. 
Every community needs both groups of people.  Each community needs someone who will give some part of what they have to help others and those who serve to help others.  It’s philanthropy.  We need more people giving towards good causes.  We need people to offer a helping hand by being a role model or a father figure, even a big brother or big sister.  Plenty of kids desire to have someone show them some love and appreciation.  The elderly want that, too.  The disabled want it just like everyone else does.
Be a voice for others.  Be a helping hand for others.  Make a difference with what God has given to you.

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There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.- Galatians 3:28 (NLT)
There are some who consider their congregations “open,” but their reality is something entirely different.  However, some of the churches that come out of a background of putting the protest in Protestant find it difficult to include all others when those others support gay marriage, abortion or legalized marijuana.  These churches are open in the name of Jesus, but they must remain mindful to stick to the way of Jesus.

I used to live near a Methodist church that prominently posted this slogan on its marquee and advertisements.   Open Hearts… Open Minds… Open Doors… Open what? I keep wondering just how “open” they are.  Are there doors more open than their hearts and minds? I should hope not, seeing as how I know some well-meaning Methodists and Wesleyans.

Our churches need to intensify their inclusion.  America has its first African-American president in Barak Obama.  Now, as we go forward in faith, let us open up and crank up our inclusion of others. 

Let us become:

  • More Intense with Inclusion
  • More Intentional with Inclusion
  • More Inclusive with Inclusion

Does your church invest in supporting underserved community members with necessary programs? Is your church campus a safe haven for at-risk youth and abused women and their families? Can those in recovery walk into your church without the shadow of shame? Can those returning from prison and jail enter your congregation without being judged and condemned all over again?

I love the story of Rick Warren and Saddleback Church’s origin as told in the Purpose Driven Church.  Warren shares that the ministries at Saddleback were developed based upon the needs of the people who came to the church.  He developed ministries that helped meeting the needs of people who came to them and who lived around them. 

As you help others get better and to live differently, they become the spokespeople for what is possible within your church.  Ex-addicts go back and share the Word with other addicts who struggle with addiction.  Former gang members and drug dealers spread the word on the streets of what your church has done for them since they met Jesus at your church’s altar.  Your job? Keep intensifying your inclusion.  Touch lives like never before.  Make a difference in the lives of people who attend your worship services and who live around and near your church.  Remain open to innovative and inventive ways to invite and include people to be part of the family since we are all one in Christ Jesus.

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 A while back, maybe a year or two, I started working on some poems that told the story about life in the inner city and the urban streets.  I began to conjure up poems and vignettes about the streets in the fashion and style of an Iceberg Slim or Donald Goines.  I started crafting urban sorrow songs like those penned by Rick James and Marvin Gaye.  I wrote “Words from the Underground” which will be released tomorrow at www.lulu.com/lifepath/ .  Here is ‘Lessons from the Streets’ as a sample  of the works contained in this new publication.

The lessons on the street

Can leave you bruised for life.

They can leave some permanent scars.

I’ve seen folks take it like a joke

And then come up lame.

This ain’t no game for kids.

It’s the real thing out here.

Bullets tear flesh

And make holes in domes

It’s a war zone 24-7 out here

With the enemy at every turn

Even when they say they riding with you.

Can’t trust a soul when the game’s like this.

You got to choose your battles

Before someone sets sights on you.

Make a move

Even if it ain’t the first move

But God help you make one.

Whatever you do,

You better make it quick.

That’s all that’s to it

And it’s true.

I saw a man lose his life

Because he didn’t make a move.

He could be here today

But he didn’t make his move.

It’s just another lesson.

Another one to learn.

The lessons in the streets will mess with you

Then get in your head real bad

And leave you so sick

That life will lose its meaning

And even its value.

Learn it one way

Or learn it another,

But the streets will teach you

How to survive or die

Just by being out there.

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For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. . . Mark 14:39 (ESV)

Things are out of balance. The poor seem to continue to get poorer. Look at what the government is telling us about our national deficit and bailouts as well as restructuring organizations such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Even Ben Bernanke can’t seem to explain what is going on.  Don’t seek any insights from Steve Jobs or Warren Buffet either.  Look at what the Lord says.

The poor will be in our midst always.  Jesus put in real simple terms for us: “…whenever you want, you can do good for them…” That’s what we have to focus on today.  Those of us who can make a difference will need to step up and make a difference as the Lord directs us.  It came about in the days of Micah, men doing whatever they pleased while their neighbors suffered and struggled.   Haggai preached against such selfishness.  Many of the prophets spoke against it.  Let us do what we can based upon God’s leading and directing us.  Let us live like vessels that He pours into with His Spirit and pours out upon those in need of a spiritual uplift as we seek to meet their needs.

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8 (NLT)

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For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.- Matt. 6:21

I am trying to get some things in order as I continue my walk in Christ.  That’s a given for most of us who profess to believe in Christ.  Money is somewhere near the top of the list of things to get straight and in line with God’s standard.  I know and I read it, too.  Yes, money is “what is least” according to the Word.  I do agree with that.  Yet, money has a stranglehold on many of us for many different reasons.  Whether it be debt, saving, cost of living, or simply making ends meet, many people have trouble when it comes to money.  We need to ask for forgiveness, pleading with the Father for both grace and mercy, but we also need to take a realistic look at what we do with the money we do make.  It’s time for a check-up on our checkbook.

Jesus simply shared that you can tell a lot about us by what we spend our money.  Look at where you spend your money and you’ll discover what matters most to you.  People with family budgets that have “miscellaneous” and “emergency fund” listed are doing a slight shift by playing with words if miscellaneous is seeing something that I like and getting it, and if the emergency fund is for tires, brakes and other “incidentals.”  I think many of the materials published by Ron Blue, Larry Burkett, and Dave Ramsey speak to the need for people, especially Christians, to live within their means.  John Wesley’s sermon has often been paraphrased: “Make all you can,Save all you can,Give all you can.”  Money really does matter in a Christian’s life.

Try this on for size: Does what you do with your money honor God? Review your checkbook (or, if you’re like many folks, review your online check register) and see who you give most of your money to monthly.  Are supporting worthy causes or are you simply spending? Is your money going to support the ministry of the church? Are you saving anything? If there were a call for a special offering to help with Haiti or Chile, would you be in the financial position to help out or just pray? Here goes the big one.  Looking at what you have done with what you have, would you trust yourself with more? Better yet, should God trust you with more?  It’s a matter of stewardship.  Let God lead you, even with your money matters.

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I stand upon what I know and understand, especially what I believe.

I learned to love more since Marley was born as I learned to let go of my grandmother.

I lived within means and then below my means in order to keep things afloat.

My wife shared her grief and frustration, and I offered the best that I could offer her with a hug.

I cried in the dark. I prayed out in the open air.

My heart was filled with joy and my gas tank has rarely been full.

MANY would say that this is oxymoronic, but I am still standing.

I am still standing in spite of storms in my life.

I am still standing.

Here I am.

Here I stand.

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A simple solution: When You Desire to Give
Luke 21:1-3 offers a simple solution for when you desire to give and do not have much to give. The widow observed by Jesus gave out of what little she had to live on to begin with, a quite honorable act. She trusted God through her actions, not by mere words.
Trust God with what you have and give out of that. Praying for more to give makes you earnest. Giving out of what you already have makes you wise and faithful.

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