Don’t quit, keep going!

Quit

“Don’t quit, keep going!” It’s easy to say

But words fall flat, at the end of the day

“Don’t quit, keep going!”, an interesting theory

While trials, troubles, tragedies keep my life dreary

“Don’t quit, keep going!”, love to finish my race

I’m tired and sad, but another day I must face

“Don’t quit, keep going!” The preacher extols

My pain and discouragement have taken its toll

“Why don’t you quit”, my friends say, “Why don’t you give up.”

You must have sinned, you must have messed up.

“Why don’t you quit”, my friends say, “Why try.”

They tell me “Life’s unfair, curse God and die!”

But then I look at people who have endured so much

They inspire me to keep going, with their compassionate touch

They cry real tears, their joy deep and real

They don’t allow the “why’s” to ruin the deal

They allow their hearts to break, not putting on an act

Jesus said, in this world they’ll be sorrow, it’s a fact

Life’s fragile, on our own we’re easily broken

But he also said that trials won’t be the last word spoken

We must remember the words that Jesus said

He has overcome the world, we’re just not there yet

We must remember the cross, he endured the shame,

Because of the joy he knew would follow his suffering.

Consider it all joy, I’m not there yet

But I’ve made up my mind, I’m not going to quit

It’s one day at a time, guarding my heart from dissolution

Finding strength from others, and making God my foundation

So remember Paul’s words, “Don’t get weary in doing right.”

Joy comes in the morning, for those who endure the night.

The promise of Jesus, “He’s preparing a beautiful place”

Where disease is gone, tears dried up and our pain erased.

…is not this the kind of fast I have chosen:

Fasting is the denial of self to allow us to become more sensitive to God and more passionate towards the things God is passionate towards. And then to act on those things.

Fasting does not change God. Fasting changes us.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”

Recently around a thousand people at my church fasted for a week on rice and beans, just to more closely identify to people who do not have the food options most Americans have.

Most of us are not worried about whether we will eat enough today. In fact, most of us are worried that we will eat too much today.

I know there are hungry people in America, but compared to third world hunger, even hungry Americans have great access to food.

For most third world countries, rice and beans are a delicacy, yet in America, we take these nutritional staples for granted.

Rice and beans may be a step down for us but it is a delicacy in poverty stricken nations.

In Haiti moms have come to rely on a traditional Haitian remedy for hunger pangs: cookies made of dried yellow dirt from the country’s central plateau.

Haitimothersdirtcakes

A meal of rice and beans costs nearly $1, but a dirt cake only costs a few cents.

By eating these dirt cakes, patties, Haitian children almost certainly ingest intestinal parasites.

The parasitic worms that were in the dirt will devour up to 25% of the nutrients you eat. Without a 2 cent de-worming pill these parasites will linger in your digestive tract perpetually, thus drastically stunting a Haitian child’s mental and physical development.

When I shared these facts about Haitian mothers and children, our congregation was humbled and broken.

We handed out a starter pack of rice and beans at the end of every service, with a list of things to pray for during the fast and a list of organizations they could support.

At every meal people prayed for those around the world and in our own country who were hungry.

Because rice and beans are a delicacy in poor countries, we were not really sacrificing too much.

But by not eating anything else for a week, it taught many how to simplify. It taught many to be more thankful.

After the fast was over, many realized how much food Americans waste, and how we should and could eat more simply.

wastedfood

Since that week of fasting, grocery bills have been less, because people learned they could still eat well, with a smaller budget.

Since that week, a 20 thousand square foot organic garden was started on our churches property by people who are passionate about people eating healthy food.

It was interesting how children led the way.

One family was going to fast one meal a day, on rice and beans, until their 8 year old son, broke down and told them in tears that if they were really going to be like people who are hungry, they needed to eat rice and beans for all three meals. The family followed his lead.

One woman during the “fast” realized how much she was spending on diet Coke. She decided at the end of the week to stop drinking diet Coke (her husband called it rat poison) and she has used the savings to sponsor another child through Compassion International.

That one week has made our church more compassionate towards the things God is compassionate for.

The definition of compassion is: a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

That one week taught us that true fasting is always “accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate suffering.”

We are doing a better job of following the words of Mother Teresa, “Live simply so others may simply live.”

I would challenge churches to try this “beans and rice” fast. It will change you and bless you..

——————————————————————————————————————————–
This is the information we handed out with the starter pack of rice and beans:

“…and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” Isaiah 58:10

Get the facts about hunger and how it affects children and their families:

>One person in seven battles hunger every day.

>More than 9 million children under age 5 die every year, and malnutrition accounts for more than one-third of these deaths. Most of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

>About 5.6 million deaths of children worldwide are related to under-nutrition. This accounts for 53 percent of the total deaths for children under 5. Worldwide, 161 million preschool children suffer from chronic malnutrition.

       >923 million people worldwide are undernourished, and there are more than 9 million deaths related to hunger each year.

Sources: http://www.wfp.org, http://www.unicef.org, http://www.who.int, http://www.un.org

WHAT CAN I DO?
>Fast and Pray for those who are hungry (Join us for a 5 day fast of eating rice and beans, while praying for the hungry and discussing ways to solve hunger with family and friends. Let us know about your conversations and how the fast has affected you by posting your experiences on GVCC’s facebook page. Remember, rice and beans are a delicacy in third world countries.)
>Sponsor a child through Compassion International. (Sponsored children and their families are given proper nutrition through education and balanced meals. For more information go to Compassion.com)
>Tithe and get involved with GVCC’s Saturday Morning Café. (GVCC is able to buy groceries for our Saturday morning giveaway for 10 cents on the dollar. Your tithe allows us the buying power to have adequate amounts of food. Plus volunteering in the Café will help you see and understand the face of hunger.)
>Volunteer and help support GVCC’s organic garden. (This garden will help supply the hungry of El Dorado county with nutritious fruits and vegetables. Food that is not often available to the hungry.)
>Be a voice for the voiceless. (Proverbs 31:8 says to be a voice for the voiceless and to speak up for those who cannot be heard. The hungry need more voices to speak up for them.)

Isaiah 58

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‎”God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them.” Bono

Listen to the message this weekend from Ken Burkey about being an Isaiah 58 church.

http://www.gvcconline.com/files/audio/07%20The%20Power%20Of%20Immersion.mp3

Isaiah 58 (NLT)
“Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast.
Shout aloud! Don’t be timid.
Tell my people Israel[a] of their sins!
2 Yet they act so pious!
They come to the Temple every day
and seem delighted to learn all about me.
They act like a righteous nation
that would never abandon the laws of its God.
They ask me to take action on their behalf,
pretending they want to be near me.
3 ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say.
‘Why aren’t you impressed?
We have been very hard on ourselves,
and you don’t even notice it!’
“I will tell you why!” I respond.
“It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves.
Even while you fast,
you keep oppressing your workers.
4 What good is fasting
when you keep on fighting and quarreling?
This kind of fasting
will never get you anywhere with me.
5 You humble yourselves
by going through the motions of penance,
bowing your heads
like reeds bending in the wind.
You dress in burlap
and cover yourselves with ashes.
Is this what you call fasting?
Do you really think this will please the Lord?
6 “No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
7 Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
8 “Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
9 Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
10 Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
11 The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring.
12 Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.
Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls
and a restorer of homes.

5 Things Every Church Should Do (Part 5)

 

 

During a British conference on comparative religions, experts debated what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith.

They began eliminating possibilities.

Incarnation? Other religions had different versions of gods appearing in human form.

Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of return from death.

The debate went on for some time until C.S. Lewis wandered into the room.

“What’s the rumpus about?” he asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions.

Lewis responded, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”

After some discussion, the colleagues had to agree.

The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity.

The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of karma, the Jewish covenant, the Muslim code of law—each of these offers a way to earn approval.

The 5th and most foundational thing every church should do is to be a large, generous distributor of Grace.

Grace dares to make God’s love unconditional.

Grace makes it possible to start over again.

Grace makes it possible for new beginnings.

Grace makes it possible to move forward.

The Apostle Paul who once was the king of religion, experienced life transforming Grace and said, “I am still not all I should be but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead…”

So many people live with hidden shame, mistakes from the past, failures of deep consequence and they seem stuck, not able to move towards the future.

I was working at a coffee shop not long ago and a gentlemen working next to me struck up a conversation and asked me what I did for a living.

I told him that I was a professional body builder, but I pastor on the side.

He believed the pastor part and told me he hadn’t been to church in years.

I asked, “What has kept you away?”

He said a divorce, a drinking problem and the way he was treated by the church when he was going through those difficult times.

He said, “I don’t really need to go somewhere and feel judged. I know I’m a screw up!”

We preceded to have an hour long conversation about Grace.

He asked me a great question. He said, “If Grace is the difference between Jesus and other religions, then why don’t churches teach it and live it?”

I told him because we haven’t made Grace the highest priority. It falls in the middle of the other many things churches try to do.

I told him that at the church I go to we teach on Grace all the time because it is so multi-faceted that you have to keep looking at it, living it, celebrating it and teaching it.

Philip Yancey writes “Grace makes its appearance in so many forms that I have trouble defining it.”

“I am ready, though, to attempt something like a definition of grace in relation to God.”

“GRACE MEANS THERE IS NOTHING WE CAN DO TO MAKE GOD LOVE US MORE—no amount of spiritual calisthenics and renunciations, no amount of knowledge gained from seminaries and divinity schools, no amount of crusading on behalf of righteous causes.”

“And GRACE MEANS THERE IS NOTHING WE CAN DO TO MAKE GOD LOVE US LESS—no amount of racism or pride or pornography or adultery or even murder.”

“Grace means that God already loves us as much as an infinite God can possibly love.”

Grace is inclusive. Religion is exclusive.

In WWII, a group of soldiers were fighting in the rural countryside of France.

During an intense battle, one of the American soldiers was killed.

His comrades did not want to leave his body on the battlefield and decided to give him a church burial.

They remembered a church a few miles behind the front lines whose grounds included a small cemetery surrounded by a white fence.

After receiving permission to take their friend’s body to the cemetery, they set out for the church, arriving just before sunset.

An old priest, body betraying his many years, responded to their knocking.

His face, deeply wrinkled and tan, was the home of two fierce eyes that flashed with wisdom and passion.

“Our friend was killed in battle,” they blurted out, “and we wanted to give him a church burial.”

In very broken English the priest replied, “I’m sorry, but we can bury only those of the same faith here.”

Tired after many months of war, the soldiers simply turned to walk away. “But”, the old priest called after them, “you can bury him outside the fence.”

Cynical and exhausted, the soldiers dug a grave and buried their friend just outside the white fence. They finished after nightfall.

The next morning, the entire unit was ordered to move on, and the group raced back to the little church for one final goodbye to their friend.

When they arrived, they couldn’t find the gravesite.

Tired and confused, they knocked on the door of the church.

They asked the old priest if he knew where they had buried their friend.

A smile flashed across the old priest’s face. “After you left last night, I could not sleep, so I went outside early this morning and I moved the fence.”

JESUS DID MORE THAN MOVE THE FENCE, HE TORE IT DOWN.

RELIGION SAYS, SOME DESERVE THE INSIDE, SOME DESERVE THE OUTSIDE.

Accepting and living in Grace is the only way for us to have compassion and to see Grace in others.

Compassion means “to suffer with”, to endure with, struggle with, and to partake in hunger, nakedness, loneliness, pain, and broken dreams in the human family.

The question has been asked, “What makes a genius?”

The answer is, “The ability to see.”

To see what?

The butterfly in a caterpillar.
The eagle in an egg.
The saint in a selfish person.
Life in death.
And suffering as the form in which the incomprehensibility of God himself appears.

There has always been a debate in the church world about what is deep.

People leave churches because they are looking for something deeper.

What they usually mean is that there is not a certain version of the Bible being used, or there are not certain songs that are being sung, or there is not enough solemn judgment coming from the preacher.

What is the definition of deep? Compassion.

Because compassion means accepting Grace for yourself and seeing Grace in others.

Matthew Fox writes “Compassion is a spirituality of meat, not milk; of adults, not children; of love, not masochism; of justice, not philanthropy. It requires maturity, a big heart, a willingness to risk and imagination.”

To rephrase C.S. Lewis, religion is all around us and it has led to wars, division, judgment and death.

Religion has given God a bad name.

When a church lives in and offers Grace, people are healed, sins are forgiven, relationships strengthened and people are truly alive.

Grace gives God his name back.

Grace is the only thing the church has to offer that no one else can.

If a church wants to grow in depth and compassion, it should make Grace its #1 priority.

These are a few of my favorite verses on Grace. Share with me some of yours.

“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” Acts 20:24

“Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.” Romans 6:14

“You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” Ephesians 2:8-9

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:16

“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

“When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.” Luke 14:12-14

“Don’t be afraid!” David said. “I intend to show kindness to you because of my promise to your father, Jonathan. I will give you all the property that once belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will eat here with me at the king’s table!” 2 Samuel 9:7

5 Things Every Church Should Do (Part 1)

The first thing every church should and must do is work with Compassion International.

I am coming off a weekend where Compassion International, once again, has impacted our church in such a way as to make us more compassionate, more generous, more unified and much closer to the heart of God.

What church leaders wouldn’t want that to happen to their church?

When we pray the prayer Jesus taught us, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”, Compassion assists in helping that prayer come true.

The definition of “compassion” is “to feel deeply about something that needs to get fixed, and then being willing to do something about it.”

Many times we feel deeply about something in our world, but that is not compassion. It is only when we are willing to do something to change it, do our lives begin to define compassion.

Compassion International not only brings to us the awareness of the difficulties children experience living in extreme poverty, but they provide practical, effective avenues in participating in taking away those difficulties.

Child sponsorship connects a child to a sponsor who will write letters and pray for him or her, but more importantly it will connect the child to a local church that assists the child in a holistic way.

From making sure they get and stay and thrive in school, to food and nutritional needs, to helping with medical issues, to providing life-saving antiviral drugs that fight the HIV virus, to insecticide treated mosquito nets that prevent malaria, to safe water filters, to building a safe community full of healthy relationships.

On top of all of those amazing things, the child is introduced to a relationship with Jesus and a local church who oversees the local compassion program, who offers them salvation, eternal life and a relationship that will shape how they view the world for the rest of their lives.

Families at the church I go to have sponsored over 1200 children from all over the world. It has affected us deeply. Think about it. We are one church. And as I always say, “We are not a rich church, but we are a generous church.”

One church has impacted the lives of 1200 children, plus their families.

We have sponsored a Child Survival Program in Haiti where pregnant mothers get medical attention and new born children are given the medical care they need to develop into young healthy children who can be sponsored.

The Child Survival Program is run through the local Compassion sponsor church.

Just this last weekend, the families at my church purchased nearly 900 safe water filters at $55 a filter. That’s about $50 thousand in one weekend! They will give 900 families safe water for life.

Once again, these water filters will be distributed through the local Compassion church where pastors and church leaders will give the filters to families and begin to build on-going relationships with them.

What is great is that the local church in that country, not my church, but the local church will get all the credit for helping children, mothers and families, and ultimately when the local church serves its community, God gets the credit and that is the whole point.

And that is the genius and gift of Compassion International.

It has helped my church live out the true definition of “compassion”, it has made us more generous with our time, talents and treasures, it has unified us and better aligned our hearts towards God’s heart whose passion and deep love for the poor we are called to emulate.

My family sponsors 6 children, 3 from Africa, 2 from Mexico and 1 from Haiti. It is the best investment we have ever made!

They say there are 138 million Americans who call themselves followers of Jesus.

Compassion has a little over 1 million children sponsored.

Imagine how the world would change if every American who calls themselves a follower of Jesus sponsored just 1 child.

That would mean 138 million children around the world getting medical, educational, social, relational and spiritual care!

Those 138 million children will grow up and change our world!

Imagine every church in America growing in compassion, generosity, their lives uniting and their hearts beating in closer sync with God’s.

That, my friends, sounds like Jesus’ prayer coming true, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven!”

Every church should and must work with Compassion International.

If you want to know how you can work with Compassion you can email me, burkeyk@gvcconline.net or go to their web page http://www.compassion.com

You might want to forward this to your pastor and church leaders.

Check out tomorrow as I will write about the second thing every church should do.
It’s a pretty big challenge, but it leads to even bigger blessings.

Throwing Stones

“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” Anne Lamott

Many of us have felt the emotional sting of being judged.

A high school girl feels the rejection of not fitting in the “in crowd.”

A divorced person feels the shame of married friends looking at her like she is a failure.

A person of Arab descent, feels the looks of people all around him as he sits in an airport waiting to visit family.

A single mom struggling to make ends meet, her car 15 years old, clothes not the latest fashion, she notices that when she is in a crowd, she seems to be invisible.

A man struggling with addiction, has lost his family and messed up his career, is afraid to talk to anyone about his issues, for fear of being judged.

We have all felt the sting of being judged.

It is a sting that stays with us far after the judgment has been rendered.

You may feel that sting right now.

Jesus said, “I have come to save the world and not to judge it.”

Jesus knew the sting of being judged.

Jesus once spoke, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; because the judgments you give are the judgments you will get, and the standard you use will be the standard used for you.”

Have you ever judged someone because they were different than you?

Please be honest with this question.

I do not want lightning to strike while you are reading this.

A couple of years ago I was working on a weekend message at a coffee shop.

As I was working on a message that I am sure had to do with the love of God, I saw from the corner of my eye a young man walk through the doors that was tatted up, wearing skinny jeans(ouch!) and a very tight tank top.

He came strutting in like he owned the place.

I do not have an issue with tattoos, but I did not like his body language. Plus his jeans made me hurt.

I instantly identified what this kid was all about.

He was a pompous, insecure, “life is all about me” kind of guy. You could just tell.

That all came to me during the 30 seconds I looked at him standing in line to get a cup of coffee or for him probably a frappuccino.

I quickly got back to my message about God’s love.

About 5 minutes later I noticed someone standing real close to me.

I tried to ignore this someone because I was putting together a message about the love of God.

But it got a little awkward, so I looked up, and standing there was this skinny-jeaned, frappuccino loving, arrogant punk.

Great. Now what?

Before I could say anything he gently put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You are the pastor at Green Valley aren’t you?”

I didn’t think it was a trick question, so I said, “Yes I am.”

In my mind I was telling him to please hurry, I have to get this sermon on God’s love done.

He smiled and said, “I want to thank you so much for all your church does. I have lived a pretty rough life, and I found Jesus and acceptance and recovery at your church.”

He then started getting emotional, and I started feeling like a complete idiot, and he finished with, “And now I am starting to volunteer with high school students at the church helping them get on a good path, so they don’t have to experience what I have experienced.”

He thanked me again and walked off with a smile on his face.

I tell you that story to show you what a spiritual giant I truly am.

You and I were made to be in the life-saving business, not in the judging business.

The Apostle Paul once said, “Accept one another.”

Those 3 words create a very powerful sentence.

To accept someone means to be FOR THEM.

It does not mean to approve of everything they do.
It means to want what is best for them, no matter what they do.

Judging is the opposite of accepting.

A great example of Jesus accepting someone was when a woman who was caught in adultery by the religious “peeping tom” leaders wanted to kill her with stones.

They said it was Moses’ law and they needed to obey the law.

Jesus said, “That is the law, so why doesn’t the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.”

No one could throw the stone(judge), because everyone had sinned.

Let me ask you a question:
HAVE YOU EVER HELD A STONE IN YOUR HAND?

I think of myself as a pretty compassionate person, but I know I have.

Maybe that stone is:
A judgmental thought or comment about another race or culture.
A self-righteous attitude towards those who are involved in a destructive sin.
Gossiping or belittling someone who has a different political or theological view.

FACT: The energy you use holding on to the stone begins to drain the ability to love out of you heart.

It’s hard to be in the life-saving business when your heart is empty of love.

Mother Teresa once said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”

The scriptures say Jesus was a friend of sinners.

They liked being around him and longed for his company.

Meanwhile, legalists found him threatening and morally soft.

The legalist separated “loving God” from “loving people.”

THEY THOUGHT IT WAS POSSIBLE TO LOVE GOD and THROW STONES.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “Prostitutes are in no danger of finding their present life so satisfactory that they cannot turn to God: the proud, the judgmental, the self-righteous, are in that danger.”

Jesus said “Let him who is without sin among you throw the first stone.”

What might a family, community or our world look like if nobody were to pick up a stone?

You have any stones you need to let go of?

SHARE WITH ME SOME OF THE STONES YOU HAVE HAD TO DROP IN ORDER TO JOIN JESUS IN THE LIFE SAVING BUSINESS.

SHARE WITH ME WHAT YOU THINK OUR WORLD WOULD LOOK LIKE IF NOBODY PICKED UP A STONE.

I HAVE A QUESTION. I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR YOUR ANSWER!

After you read this, I have some questions, and I would love to hear your answers.

Mother Teresa said, “Live simply so others may simply live.”

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “A little simplification would be the first step toward rational living, I think.”

Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Henry Thoreau said, “Our life is frittered away by detail…Simplify, simplify.”

The prophet Zechariah may have said it the most succinctly, “Keep your lives simple and honest.”

Our western culture is everything but simple and honest.

We love to be connected and busy 24 hours a day.

We are complicated people and we love our stuff.

And it seems we can never have enough stuff.

There are 2.2 billion children in the world and 1 billion of them live in poverty.

640 million children live without adequate shelter (1 in 3).
400 million live with no access to safe water (1 in 5).
270 million live with no access to health services (1 in 7)

1.4 million die each year from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.
2.2 million children die each year because they are not immunized.

In 2005, the wealthiest 20% of the world accounted for 77% of total private consumption.
A mere 12% of the world’s population uses 85% of its water.

YET: Consider what our global priorities in spending are.

The U.S. spends $8 BILLION a year on cosmetics.
Europeans spend $11 BILLION a year on ice cream.
The U.S. and Europe spends $12 BILLION a year on perfume.
The U.S. and Europe spends $17 BILLION on pet food.
The Japanese spend $35 BILLION on business entertainment.
Europeans spend $50 BILLION on cigarettes and $105 BILLION on alcohol.
The world spends $400 BILLION on narcotic drugs and $780 BILLION on military spending.

Compare that to what is estimated as additional costs to achieve universal access to basic social services in all developing countries:

Basic education for all would cost an additional $6 BILLION.
For water and sanitation for all, an additional $9 BILLION.
Reproductive health care for all women would cost an additional $12 BILLION and for basic health and nutrition, an additional $13 BILLION.

Mother Teresa said, “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”

Solomon wrote “God made us plain and simple, but we have made ourselves very complicated.” Ecclesiastes 7:29

And Solomon had a lot of stuff.

Nobel Prize-winner and world renowned scholar Albert Schweitzer spent much of his career traveling on trains. Someone once asked him why he always traveled third class, and his answer was plain and simple: “There is no fourth class.”

Philip Yancey reflected on a trip he made to a monastery. After the monk showed him his small room, he said, “If you need anything, let us know and we will teach you how to get along without it.”

The question Americans, especially American Christians, need to be asking is “How much is enough?”

A simplified life helps us obey God and love people in greater ways.

And even though Proverbs 19:17 says, “If you help the poor, you are lending to the LORD—and he will repay you!”

And even though Proverbs 21:13 says, “Those who shut their ears to the cries of the poor will be ignored in their own time of need.”

And even though Proverbs 28:27 says, “Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to poverty will be cursed.”

And even though the prophets over and over say, “Be generous to the poor and you will be blessed. Be stingy with your money, and you will lose it. Take what God has given and take care of the orphan, the widow, the poor and you will receive blessings you cannot believe.”

And even though most American Christians know these scriptures and truths, only 9% of them give the biblical tithe.

American Christians give on average, 2% of their income towards the poor.

If the 138 million American Christians who attend church at least twice per month were to tithe, it would result in two hundred and fifty billion dollars per year that could be used to eradicate extreme poverty.

Smith and Emerson write, “Ordinary American Christians have within their power the capacity to foster massive and unprecedented spiritual, social, cultural, and economic change. In order to achieve such dramatic, world-transforming change, ordinary American Christians simply need to do one thing: start giving reasonably generously from their incomes, let us say 10% of their income.”

Many Christian Americans understand this in their minds, but they do not live it out in their lives.

Let’s ask some personal questions together:

Do I have some possessions that complicate my life but don’t really bring me any enjoyment?

What are some things that do bring me enjoyment but may not be worth the cost in time, money, and concern?

Do I buy things I don’t need, won’t use, or can’t afford?

What do I really need, and what do I merely want?

Do the statistics about how children live around the world break my heart enough to change my lifestyle?

Recently many people at my church fasted for a week on rice and beans, just to more closely identify to people who do not have the food options most Americans have.

At every meal we prayed for those around the world and in our own country who were hungry.

Rice and beans are a delicacy in poor countries, so we were not really sacrificing too much.

But by not eating anything else for a week, it taught us how to simplify. It taught us to be thankful.

After the fast was over, we realized how much food we waste, and how we could eat more simply..

Since that week of fasting, our grocery bills have been less, because we learned you can still eat well, with a smaller budget.

I have a friend who is not rich, lives a modest life, has avoided debt and believes the promise from Jesus that “you are more blessed when you are giving rather than receiving”.
He sponsors 20 children through Compassion International’s sponsorship program.

They say that conservatively speaking, if you sponsor 1 child, you end up impacting at least 5 lives.

My friend, sponsoring 20 children, at $38 a month, that’s $760 total a month, is impacting at least 100 lives.

These lives are being introduced to education, health care, nutrition, faith and a Compassion project that will invest in their entire families.
Many are being saved from malaria, HIV and other preventable diseases.
Many have full stomachs.
Many are experiencing a community of Grace.
Many are being educated, breaking the cycle of poverty that has affected their families for generations.
Many are finding the hope and the knowledge that Jesus loves them.

My friend drives a used car, does not have credit card debt and has a reasonable mortgage payment.

He does not live on water and crackers, he does take vacations, and in his words, has not had to sacrifice to do this.

To him it is just obedience, and with obedience comes blessings.

He tells me he has more money than before he started sponsoring children.

This is a spiritual principle that cannot be explained, only lived and experienced.

I know another woman, who during our churches fast of rice and beans, realized how much she was spending on diet Coke. She decided at the end of the week to stop drinking diet Coke (her husband called it rat poison) and she has used the savings to sponsor another child through Compassion.

John Wesley was a student at Oxford University. As a student he had a fixed level of income and a fixed level of expenses.

His income that exceeded his expenses was given away to the poor.

After graduating from Oxford, he became an extremely popular preacher/writer and went on to make a sizable amount of money through the sales of his books.

His income gradually rose and rose, but he kept the level of his expenses the same as when he had been a student and continued to give away the excess income to the poor.

Very different from our American philosophy:

The more I make, the more I what? Spend!

Wesley didn’t see money as an evil.

Money was a good thing to Wesley because it was a vehicle through which God’s love could be expressed to the poor.

Simplify your life, because you are more powerful than you think to change our world!

SO HERE ARE SOME QUESTIONS WHERE I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR YOUR ANSWERS. Please reply so we can all learn and be inspired.

1. What ways have you simplified your life to help the poor?
2. How has simplifying your life affected your family and relationships?
3. How has God paid you back when you have lent to the poor?
4. Share some future goals when it comes to simplifying your life.
5. Share a favorite quote or scripture about giving to the poor.

Water=Life

THE BAD NEWS

4,100 children will die today from water related diseases.

Nearly one billion do not have access to clean water.

3.5 million people die each year from water related diseases. That is equal to the entire city of Los Angeles.

Dirty water kills more people through disease than any war kills people through guns.

Water-related diseases such as cholera and typhoid are easily preventable.

When children are suffering from diarrhea, it stops them from going to school thus stunting their physical, emotional and educational growth.

An American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than the average person in a developing country slum uses for an entire day.

THE GOOD NEWS

You can give an at-risk child and family safe water for a lifetime!

Compassion International’s, “Water of Life”, a water filter system, provides safe water for life (over 1 million gallons) for a child and their family.

When families receive this system, they will also be educated on the importance of hygiene, washing hands and sanitation.

There is also support for improving community water and sanitation.

For $55, you are providing safe drinking water for a lifetime and protecting an entire family from water related diseases, giving them a future, allowing them to reach their full God given potential.

My dad’s men’s small group that meets for breakfast every Thursday has bought 17 filter systems.

My churches Celebrate Recovery program has bought over 40 filter systems.

In August, we are introducing this to our entire church. I will give you an update on how it goes.

Watch the video.

Go to compassion.com (click on “meeting critical needs”

Who is My Neighbor?

Let me tell you one of the most powerful and clear stories Jesus told about how we are to love.
Jesus’ story will be in quotes.
My comments will be in parenthesis.

“One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”
The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”

(Give the man a gold star on his forehead!)

“The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

(Paraphrased: Life is busy. There is a lot to do. It is very important to know who our neighbor is so we do not, by accident, love someone who is not our neighbor. That would be a waste of time.) Sarcasm noted.

“Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. By chance a priest came along…”

(Well thank God! This Jewish man is very fortunate, actually blessed to have a priest from his religion come along. This is going to be exciting to see how he helps.)

“But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by…”

(What?)

“A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there…”

(Well, thank God again! Maybe the priest knew that the assistant was coming along and had better gifts to help this half-dead beaten up fellow Jew)

“…but he also passed by on the other side.”

(Double what!?)

“Then a despised Samaritan came along…”

(Oh, this is not going to be good. The Samaritans and Jews did not get along. There was a lot of prejudice between them. You could even call them enemies. Jews would take longer trips just so they didn’t have to through a Samaritan village. Jews and Samaritans didn’t touch each other. If this half dead guy didn’t get help from his Jewish brothers, well, I don’t know if he is going to live.)

“…and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.”

(What in the world is going on!!?)

“The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’

(Wow! The man who asked Jesus “who is my neighbor” is probably regretting ever asking the question.)

“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

The Good Samaritan, as this story has come to be known, loved his enemy, loved a stranger, and loved a broken person.

These are our neighbors.

At Ashley Wyrick’s high school graduation, she received the normal kind of gifts that graduates get: an iPhone, a digital camera and some clothes.

But Ashley received something else that day that didn’t seem much to those watching, but to her, it was a gift that brought her to tears of thankfulness and joy.

It was a big white box from her godfather, Steve Gibbons, where she received from him his old patrolman’s uniform jacket, size 42.

When she opened it up, she couldn’t hold back her emotions, for that jacket, 18 years earlier had been her first baby blanket.

In 1987, in Redwood City, California, in the cold month of December, 30 year old Highway Patrol officer Steve Gibbons pulled to the side of the road to stretch his legs when he noticed a brown paper bag that was whimpering.

He walked over to the bag and opened it and there was little newborn Ashley, all 6lb., 4oz. of her. Officer Gibbons wrapped this precious, abandoned girl in his patrolman’s jacket and rushed her to the hospital.

18 years later, Ashley, holding that jacket, was reminded of her miracle rescue.

The scriptures teach us that Jesus is watching how we treat and rescue those beaten, broken and abandoned by the side of the road.

For many of us, God has come and rescued us while we were beaten and robbed on the road of life.

He has helped us overcome addictions, grow in character, understand faith, heal our emotional wounds, forgive those who have hurt us and remove the shame of bad decisions.

If God has done those things for you, THAT’S CALLED A MIRACLE.

It’s a miracle that we should never take for granted and it’s a miracle that we are now responsible to pay forward.

With the same comfort God has given you, comfort others.

The writer of Proverbs reminds us “To be a voice for the voiceless.”

There is a sign in the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. that says, “Thou shall not be a victim. Thou shall not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shall not be a bystander.”

If God has rescued you from the side of the road, then Jesus says to you, “Go now and do the same.”

What Kind of Church Do You Go To?

I had the privilege of hearing this story first hand. It is a story that inspires me to get out of my comfort zone and to love more boldly.

It’s a story Tony Campolo tells about a trip he and his wife took to Hawaii several years ago. Because of the time change, he couldn’t get to sleep, so he decided to take a walk down the streets of Honolulu during the middle of the night.

At about 3am, he walked into a little coffee shop to get a coffee and doughnut, and as he was sitting in this empty shop, four prostitutes came walking in, talking loudly, and ordering something to eat after a night of prostituting.

They seemed to know the guy working behind the counter, and they talked to him and to each other, and as they talked, they were teasing one of the prostitutes named Agnes.

Apparently her birthday was the next day and they were making jokes about her age, and wondering how long she could keep prostituting.

Tony was sitting close and listening and even though Agnes was laughing on the outside, he could tell by her voice and her tired face that the teasing hurt and that there was an emptiness in her soul.

They eventually got up and left, and Tony got an idea.

He went to the gentlemen working behind the counter and asked if these ladies came in here every night about this time. The man said that they usually came in around 3am after turning tricks.

So Tony asks the man, “Would you help me throw a birthday party for Agnes the next morning? My wife and I will bring the decorations and the cake, if you can supply the dishes and silverware.”

The man looked stunned but said he would go along with it, since there wasn’t anything else to do at 3am in the morning. So Tony said, “It’s a plan. See you here tomorrow, same time.”

Early the next morning, Tony and his wife set up the decorations and brought a cake that said, “Happy Birthday Agnes!” and they waited impatiently.

At 3am sharp the door opens and in comes the ladies and Tony and his wife yell out, “Surprise!” and sing happy birthday to Agnes.

Agnes was stunned. She didn’t know what to say. She began to cry. Then she laugh.

Before they could cut the cake, Agnes asked if she could take the cake home and show her children. She had never been given a birthday cake before. Tony said, “Of course you can take it home.”

Agnes grabbed the cake and left the diner.

So here was Tony and his wife, sitting around with three prostitutes they did not know and the guy behind counter who seemed irritated by it all, and Tony didn’t know what to do.

And then it hit him. He announced to everyone in the room, “Let’s pray for Agnes.”

So Tony, his wife, three prostitutes and the guy behind the counter formed a little circle and Tony prayed that Agnes would have a great birthday and that she would experience God’s Grace and that she would understand how much God loved her.

When Tony said “Amen”, the guy behind the counter belted out, “I didn’t know this was some kind of religious gesture! If I would have known, I don’t think I would have gotten involved. What kind of church do you go to anyway?”

And Tony said the famous words that challenge my heart to this day.

He said, “I go to a church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3am in the morning.”

The guy behind the counter then said, “No you don’t. Because if you did, I think I would go to that kind of church.”

I think more people would go to church if there was more love, practical action and greater compassion.

I pray that there will be a new epidemic of “Churches throwing birthday parties for prostitutes at 3am in the morning.”