Tag Archive: poor

Seldom do I venture into mixing politics and faith.  Jesus separated the two.  He said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesars and give to God what is Gods.”  The two alone can become vicious between two debaters.  I imagine together they can bring death and destruction.  Today, I’m going to dip my toe in.

As our government roles deeper into the shutdown and the sides continue to play tit for tat, as a believer, I’m saddened.  Regardless of our views on welfare and political parties and border control, in the sad game are real people.  People who are at the mercy of powerful and often arrogant leaders on both sides of the issues at hand.  Who is going to care for those caught in the middle?

I was having this discussion with a friend who reminded me the employees will be paid once the shutdown is over.  I reminded him that many of those in these positions are pay check-to- pay check.  It won’t take long till mortgages and rents are missed, electric and water bills become critical, and credit cards become maxed out.  In the meantime those in authority play games with national audiences.

I don’t have the answers to immigration, and I don’t have the answers to the holes in everyone’s political platforms.  What I do know is people – white, black, yellow, young, old and still to be born, are trapped in a world where the weak are used as pawns for a perceived cause, and my Bible does speak about that!

In the Old Testament, God set out his people to be separate.  They were a holy people to be used by God for his holy intentions.  Their purity was important to God.  Along the way, they forgot the source of their purity.  Their purity was to be founded in listening to and following the words of God.  Instead, they took a few words (law) ,built power centers (Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes), and created a means to judge others instead of loving others.  

They forgot they were not to take advantage of the disadvantaged.  They missed the words about taking care of the alien and stranger in the land.  They disregarded the teaching about making a profit off the backs of the weak.  They were reprimanded but changed nothing when the prophet Micah said, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  Instead, the rich and the proud distorted justice, had little mercy and forgot God.  Sounds familiar. The Bible is relative to our world as it was to theirs.

When we, as a people, have little compassion for the weak, we have lost the heart of God.  Micah did say love justice.  It’s not about letting life become a free for all.  However, the three elements of what God requires are connected at the hip.  As I grow older, I discover they cannot be separated.  They are the heart of God.  

Psalm 41:1 says, “Blessed is the one who has regard for the weak!”  First of all notice the exclamation point.  It was used to emphasize an action of a believer.  The word used for regard is not a passing glance.  It was used to describe someone “who has the ability to know what to do and how.”  How do we develop the ability?  Micah answers that one.  He said, “…walk humbly with our God.”  

Jesus came from his position at the right hand of the Father and walked among us for 30 years, giving his very life to give us life and give us a mediator who knew us personally.  It’s an amazing feature about Christianity.  God with us!  His Holy Spirit makes that possible every day, no matter where we go.  Humility with God is recognizing he didn’t have to leave the throne and walk among us, much less die for us.  His justice demanded our death!  Instead of death, we are given mercy and He calls upon us to remember it (Lord’s supper) and be the touch of Jesus to the weak.  

It’s time we quit fighting about which party best fits the Christian faith.  We are not called to pick the least of two evils.  We are called to live separate of that.  It’s a life that considers “others better than ourselves” according to the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2.  Now we not only have a weak people (immigrants) dying to come to this land of prosperity, we have our own who will not be paid by the richest government in the world while the proud make their points.  It’s been this way for years (Regan amnesty) and won’t get fixed quickly.  

Where do we start?  Walk humbly with our God.  He is the only one that can melt the heart bent on judgment and destruction.  I’m going to say it!  Donald and Nancy, put your sticks down, walk humbly with Jesus, figure out how mercy and justice work together and don’t forget to take care of the alien as well as your own brother and sister.


Last week I traveled to Hot Springs, Arkansas to officiate a wedding.  It was my first time in Arkansas.  While it was a quick trip, it allowed enough time to check out Hot Springs.  Two things were hot.  The water coming out of the ground was between 135 to 160 degrees.  No wonder they named the town “Hot Springs.”  They could have named it the same since the air temperature was hot as well.  There wasn’t a breath of wind the entire weekend.  

Hot Springs is not only known for the water temperature but also the Bathhouses.  Enterprising individuals built bathhouses mainly for the rich and famous to enjoy the renewing elements in the hot water.  They didn’t know at the time that there is very little mineral content in this particular water.  It didn’t matter. The warm baths attracted the mafia and baseball teams for spring training.  What a combination!  Bathhouses, mafia and baseball teams make quite a mix for such a small town.  The history is rich.  The water is hot.  The town is small.  There it is…Hot Springs, Arkansas.  I might have left out that it is also the hometown to President Bill Clinton.  Now you know a couple answers on Jeopardy.

While there I was reunited with an old friend from Maryland.  When we get together, we love to talk philosophy, religion, and life for hours.  He challenges me to think beyond the norm, and I challenge him.  We don’t argue.  We sharpen.  Everybody needs someone to sharpen him or her.  Without people like him in our lives we can easily become dull.  

We both agreed that a key element to a church we consider “alive” is outreach to the poor.  Jesus said to take care of “the least of these,” naming various people groups (sick, convicts, homeless, and others) in Matthew 25.  Growing churches tend to look beyond their walls and call their church family to care for the poor.  Often we think it’s the governments responsibility.  Not according to Jesus.  

As we were talking, he made a statement that has preoccupied my thoughts for days now.  He said, “The poor are those who are outside of their established community.”  He actually made me pause.  I asked him to define his statement.  He took about 10 minutes explaining that some element of depravity, especially sin, tends to separate us from family, neighbors, church and work.  Once separated, we suffer, and, since we are made by God to be in community we will seek community.  Those secondary communities are often destructive instead of supportive.  

Consider the alcoholic.  His addiction tends to destroy his community.  Looking at Matthew 25, we see that each people group Jesus mentions is out of community.  The “hungry, thirsty and naked” defines those who are homeless and without family.  The sick cannot enter community.  In Biblical days they were unclean and purposely exempt from being connected.  The alien or stranger is outside of community simply by being new in town.  When a visitor comes to our church, is he immediately welcomed into the family?  The Bible says they are to be given the best seat in the house, fed, and welcomed into a place of rest.  The imprisoned were already mentioned.  Did you know that only 10% of all federal prisoners received visitors during their internment?  And we wonder why they become repeat offenders.  

As Jesus came to welcome us into the Kingdom of God called the church, we are to welcome in those outside of the community of God.  If not, they will seek community elsewhere, and I don’t mean another church.  We were not made to be alone and isolated.  Love, grace, and forgiveness are given us by God to come back into relationship with him and with our brothers and sisters.  Reach out to the poor.  It is those who are outside.

They have their issues.  They have their sin.  So do we.  Meanwhile, Jesus still welcomes us home as the Prodigal Father welcomed the Prodigal Son back into his family without question, without payment, and without judgment.  Now that is Christianity.  Only by grace are we recognized as members of His family.  Go and do likewise.  

I limped into church today.  I shed a few tears as well.  As I stood up to lead in prayer, all I could see were people I’ve walked with the past 12 years and I know their limp.  Sometimes our limp becomes us.  Like Jacob in the Old Testament.  God touched his hip, and he limped the rest of his life.  God does that.  He causes us to limp so we can slow down and know him.  We tend to want to take the lead instead of follow.  

I was reading an article the other day that talked about hurting Christians.  The author must limp as well.  He points to four elements that often leave us far from the spiritual high that others seem to relish.  The four characteristics that suck the life out of us are: isolation, loneliness, shame and worthlessness.  Often all four are a result of sin that finds us.  Other times we have no problem finding it on our own. 

It’s hard to think that in our current world we might struggle with isolation or loneliness.  To me they’re kissing cousins of the evil world.  We don’t need demon possession in our world.  Isolation and loneliness are evil’s best friends   

Church can often promote isolation and loneliness.  One time when you limp into church and someone asks, “How are you today?,” tell them.  For some reason we have this idea that Christians are not supposed to have issues much less sin issues.  When the body of Christ gathers, it should be a safe haven for those who limp.  Unfortunately, the local bar is the only safe haven.  In church you can call yourself a sinner; just don’t say what kind.  

When someone unloads his or her burdens, the kissing cousin of loneliness tag teams with isolation.  I’ve often pointed out that Jesus indeed answers our needs.  What we have failed to learn is that the Holy Spirit resides in believers.  It is through believers that he moves and his Holy Spirit flows.  We are the conduit for the power of God.  If we don’t answer the need of the limping, hurting brother or sister somebody or something else will.  

I honestly believe the main reason churches are struggling to keep people in the pews is their inability to care well for the limping, weary traveler on the path of life.  We have decided to choose, as a friend of mine who struggles to get out of bed every Sunday morning calls it, “a faith defined by unicorns and rainbows.”  As a friend asked this week, “Doesn’t Jesus want me to be happy?”  “Yes,” I answered, “but only by walking in the ways of the Lord as defined by the Holy Scriptures.”  Let’s just say he left quickly.  

Limping into church often lets others know we are suffering.  Since we learned nobody wants to be around suffering anymore (Apostle Paul said it’s the way into the kingdom of God) each limp sends impulses of shame to the heart.  Surely, if no one else is limping, something is wrong with us.  I asked that this morning, “What’s wrong with me?”  Maybe I’m not walking with the Lord.  Maybe I’m depressed.  Maybe I’m not praying enough.  Maybe I’m too serious.  Maybe I’m this.  Maybe I’m that.  Maybe.  Maybe.  Since no one wants to connect with the limp or tears, you know what that shame will do next week?  Keep us in bed.  

Eventually, as we wallow in our pain, worthlessness will take us to places we thought we would never go.  All four isolation, loneliness, shame and worthlessness – pounce on the wounded, leaving them paralyzed and numb.

A friend recently told me his mother died and he was absent from church for six weeks and not a soul called on him or showed up at the funeral.  He was on the path.  

Another soul talked about suffering the rejection by her friends due to a wayward husband.   There seems to be an unspoken fear of the single woman.  Instead of embracing the crippled woman, she is forced to limp in and out.

Jesus told his disciples a story.  He said there was a king who was having a banquet.  He invited the expected guests; the ones who usually attend a king’s banquet.  Only they had plenty of excuses.  So the king told his disciples to go out into the highway and byways and invite “the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind” to his banquet.  I found out today in Luke 14 that there is nothing wrong with my limp.  There is nothing wrong with your limp either.  Line up the wheelchairs and the crutches next Sunday.  The crippled are coming to the banquet! Worship well!  We got the invite.

“Quiet” may be one of the most paradoxical words in our English language. It’s something we all want in our noisy, noisy world. At the same time, we can’t stand too much of it. Even in the Bible, quiet can have this double side.
In I Timothy 4 the Apostle Paul tells his young protege, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.” I wonder, I really wonder, what Paul would write in this fast-paced, over-stimulated world. On the other hand, in Revelation 8, the Apostle John writes his prophecy and states “…there was silence [quiet’s kissing cousin] in heaven for about half an hour.” This heavenly silence was very rare and was a pause before judgments of God were poured out.
Silence or quiet (pick one) tends to occur even in the Scriptures when someone or something demands it or the responder is stymied. The same thing occurs in our lives. Quiet occurs in hospitals, at funerals and in special places. Silence will be demanded when children are screaming in the car. There is a place and a time for silence for sure.
One of the classic Scriptures pertaining to quiet is Psalm 46:10 where we are told “Be still and know that I am God.” There is indication from these words that man has always been scurrying around in this world making noise every step of the way. Maybe we think we can find our significance in making noise. God tells us at this point to take the time to shut up, sit down and focus on Him. Now we have a specific reason for quietness.
Jesus remained silent at one of the most important times…his trial. His silence was purposeful. If he were to speak at this time, the redemption of man might have been in jeopardy. His silence is the lamb taking on the sin of man.
Quiet can be scary and uncomfortable as well. At our church we have a few minutes (actually seconds) to sit quietly before God as we enter into worship to Him. We also may have a time of quiet during confession. Man, it feels like those few seconds go on forever. It’s the same use of quiet in a horror movie. The same concept is in Revelation 8. Silence can be the bearer of bad news.
We can see that quiet at the right time has great purpose. Quiet at the wrong time tends to speak volumes as well. When I was taking counseling courses, a wise instructor taught, “Everything we do and say is counsel. Everything speaks.” Quiet speaks. Sometimes we think being quiet keeps us out of the fray. Not so fast! Quiet speaks when there should actually be words. Quiet at the wrong time leaves interpretation up to those we should be speaking with (notice I did not say “to”).
So, why am I taking so much time to write about something that there is not enough of in our lives and yet scary as well? I have noticed lately that the modern evangelical church is loud in its worship and silent on important issues going on in our world.
Let’s take the latest immigration issue where children have been separated from their families as they try to illegally cross the border. The church sits quietly.
How about the abuse of women going on in our culture? The quiet is condemning on this one.
What does the church have to say about the murder rates in our big cities? The opioid epidemic? Civil rights violations? Issues of justice where the poor are being used in issues like predatory lending? The president when he goes over the line in his attacks and opinions that look nothing like what we read in the Bible? We have gone quiet.
Our quietness demonstrates our inability to develop and promote a response built on the foundation of God’s love and truth. Our quiet is not so much a fear of God but rather a fear that we will lose something. Jesus said, “You cannot serve two masters. You will love the one and hate the other.” Our silence betrays our belief. We have two masters.
It is interesting to study the book of Acts. The early church clearly had one master. They were far from silent. 12 men changed the world. How? Not by being quiet. Can we be humble, loving and caring and not be quiet? Yes! The only thing is we will have to sacrifice. I can hear the quietness from here.