Friday, October 30, 2009

Even our poor are rich

Poverty and prosperity are relative terms. For example if you own a car, you are among the wealthiest people in the world. At the same time if you feel the need to impress others with your material wealth, you will never have enough.

I once observed villagers in Ecuador who lived in bamboo huts. They were lacking in material wealth but seemed to be happy. They had families and friends, the children played games and the adults worked. I realized just how easy it is to be happy if we don’t become obsessed with getting more.

I have a friend who lives off a monthly disability check and lives in a Section 8 subsidized apartment. All his needs are met at a very modest level. He enthusiastically volunteers his time for a variety of ministries. He understands that God has put him in a unique position to be a missionary to his apartment building and his neighborhood. He does not view himself as poor but, rather, called to a sacrificial way of life.

When we learn to simplify our lives and live within our means, a world of possibilities is opened up for us.

Another friend found herself alone and impoverished when her husband left her following a crippling accident. Unable to work she went about learning how to prosper in her poverty. She spent many hours at the library enjoying the air conditioning and learning how to fend for herself.

She went to a local grocer and said that she would give him a quarter everyday for all the spoiled produce. She would salvage the edible portions and make a stew. Later, she made a deal with an elderly man in her apartment building, to cook his meals if he would pay for the groceries. They then shared the meal.

She never felt sorry for herself nor envied what others had. She was content where she was and grateful when her prospects improved. She looked back on those days as character building not misfortune.

Certainly to have is usually better than to have not but the chronically dissatisfied and, especially, the greedy will never be content. “A greedy man stirs up dissension, but he who trusts in the LORD will prosper.” Proverbs 28:25

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:12

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Are You Ready to Die?

Message from Sunday,
October 25:

(Ecclesiastes 2:2-4)

Death is sure and we must be ready by a right relationship with God and a life lived serving His kingdom. The Bible is a more reliable guide to the afterlife than personal accounts of NDEs.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Are Angels Real?

Message from Sunday,
October 11:
Are Angels Real?
(Hebrews 1:14)

Angels are God’s agents to carry out his will including ministry to the elect. Discernment is needed when hearing stories of angelic encounters.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Are Psychics Your Friends?

Message from Sunday,
October 18:

Are Psychics Your Friends?
(Deuteronomy 18:10-11)

By consulting mediums and familiar spirits we are denying God’s goodness and working around him.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Small Group Structure

Whether they meet in homes, dorm rooms or in church on Sunday morning, small groups are essential to building a Christian community. A simple, easily expandable structure will facilitate numerical growth and leadership development.

The structure described here can be used in Sunday school or off campus meetings: The Small Group Structure

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Jesus and the Bible

Message from Sunday,
October 4:
Jesus and the Bible
(Matthew 5:17-48)

To believe the Bible is the Word of God, but separate it from daily experience is to misuse it, and to ignore Christ’s pattern for using the Bible.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ministering to the homebound

Do not cast me away when I am old;
do not forsake me when my strength is gone.
Psalm 71:9 (NIV)

Every so often we see a news report where an elderly person is found dead in their home; sometimes weeks after the death. Many elderly people live at or below the poverty level in our inner cities. Some in apartments and mobile home parks and others in the homes they bought when it was a “nice neighborhood.”

Some are lonely and live in fear, prisoners in their own homes. Many of these elderly were once active in church but now have been forgotten. This is an opportunity for churches to step up and show God’s love. Inner city churches can mobilize communities to check on their neighbors and use available government resources to improve the mental and physical health of our “grandparents.”

Read more here about how a church can become involved: Ministering to the homebound

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Baptists burning Bibles?

I thought it was a play on words but it is not. A Baptist church is going to be burning Bibles that are not the King James Version. They are doing this in celebration of Halloween of all things. (Maybe they got tired of handing out candy.)

Is this what happens when you have religion without Christ? The Bible says that cursing and bitterness are in the mouths of those who do not know the way of peace and do not seek God (Rom. 3:13-17).

This is another example of a religious group trying to keep people from reading the Bible in their own language. In the mid 1300’s John Wycliff was scorned for translating the Bible into English. They said, “The jewel of the clergy has become the toy of the laity.”

Opponents burned every copy of the English Bible they could find. Wycliff’s translation survived and became the foundation for the King James Bible.

Jan Hus was another reformer who believed that the Bible should be in the language of the people. He was burned to death by religious leaders who started the fire with pages from Wycliff’s translation.

Thankfully, these contemporary enemies of the Kingdom of God are limited to burning Bibles, music and the writings of some leading Christian thinkers, such as Billy Graham and Mother Theresa.

The biggest irony is that this particular group took the name Baptist, a group that has championed religious liberty from the beginning.

They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips. Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known. Romans 3:12-17 (King James Version)

Thursday, October 01, 2009


Today a colleague related an incident that is common in urban ministry. One of the youth in her ministry painted gang-related graffiti on several areas of the ministry’s campus. The staff was at once hurt, offended and angry.

These acts of “tagging” feel like a betrayal to those of us who pour our lives into troubled youth. On the one hand, it represents the cultural differences between those who offer help and those who are in need. On the other, it is indicative of the high recidivism rate of the people whose lives have been damaged by sin.

The issue must be addressed, the question is how?

One option is to call the police. The problem is that these particular youth are part of a juvenile offenders program. They have had the police called on them before. Justice might be served but it is not a redemptive act.

Another option is to inform the parents. This can cause shame and embarrassment for the parents and the youth. Again, it is not redemptive.

A third option is to relay to the youth how hurtful the action was, appealing to their sense of decency. This addresses the problem directly, which is a definite plus, but it sets up an "us against them" attitude.

In confronting the youth, it is important to make them understand that the ministry’s buildings belong to them. Ask them how the situation ought to be rectified. By taking ownership, the youth can become part of the solution.

Ideally a team of youth and adult volunteers will remove the graffiti together without assigning blame. This is both redemptive and restorative, turning a bad situation into an opportunity for grace.