Songs That Make the Whole World Sing

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Songs have a way of marking the seasons of our lives.

From cheesy love songs during our teenage years to one hit wonders that we can’t get our of our minds to songs of healing and hope during tough times to songs that challenge us to live more courageously, music is a powerful source of motivation, entertainment and influence in our lives.

These are some of the “Worst” and “Best” lyrics that have motivated, entertained and influenced me.

Best “Picture of Heaven” lyrics

Earth Wind & Fire “Wonderland”

Come on in and enter as a child
Always wear a smile
Love and laughter here all the while
The flag of salvation waves around
Freedom here abounds
The joy in the sound
Calls my name – on this day

Leave behind your shame and your disgrace
Here they have no place
You will wear the garment of His grace
The rising sun will never set again
Sorrows at its end
And every word that spoken shouts amen
Take me there

Best “Challenge to Live Life at its Fullest” lyrics

OneRepublic “I Lived”

Hope when you take that jump
You don’t fear the fall
Hope when the water rises
You build a wall

Hope when the crowd screams out
They’re screaming your name
Hope if everybody runs
You choose to stay

Hope that you fall in love
And it hurts so bad
The only way you can know
Is give it all you have

And I hope that you don’t suffer
But take the pain
Hope when the moment comes
You’ll say…

I, I did it all
I, I did it all
I owned every second
That this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived

Best “Sarcasm About Religion” lyrics

Eagles “Frail Grasp on the Big Picture

And we pray to our Lord
Who we know is American
He reigns from on high
He speaks to us through middle men
And he shepherds his flock
We sing out and we praise His name
He supports us in war
He presides over football games
And the right will prevail
All our troubles shall be resolved
We have faith above all
Unless there’s money or sex involved

Frail grasp on the big picture
Nobody’s calling them for roughing up the kicker
It’s a frail grasp on the big picture
Heaven help us

Frail grasp on the big picture
All waiting for that miracle elixir

Best “Honoring Of Fallen Heroes” lyrics

Bruce Springsteen “Into The Fire” Tribute to 911

The sky was falling and streaked with blood
I heard you calling me then you disappeared into the dust
Up the stairs, into the fire
Up the stairs, into the fire
I need your kiss, but love and duty called you someplace higher
Somewhere up the stairs into the fire

May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love give us love

You gave your love to see in fields of red and autumn brown
You gave your love to me and lay your young body down
Up the stairs, into the fire
Up the stairs, into the fire
I need you near but love and duty called you someplace higher
Somewhere up the stairs into the fire

May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love give us love

May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love give us love

Worst “Love Song That’s Really About Stalking” lyrics

The Police “Every Breath You Take”

Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you

Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I’ll be watching you

(Very creepy!)

Best “Promise Of God’s Healing” lyrics

The Reel “Come Back Home”

It’s hard to come back home
when you’ve never really had one
never really had one

Is that why you
keep running from love?
You never really felt it
cause it never really lasted

The very hands that held you
Only let you fall
But…

Love is reaching out
with His arms now
strong enough to hold your pain
His hands won’t let you go
no, your not alone
He won’t ever walk away
His voice is calling out
with a love you’ve never known
“Come back home”

Best “I Was Born To Give You My Entire Life” lyrics

U2 “Magnificent”

I was born
I was born to sing for you
I didn’t have a choice but to lift you up
And sing whatever song you wanted me to
I give you back my voice
From the womb my first cry, it was a joyful noise …

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar
But only love, only love unites our hearts

Justified till we die, you and I will magnify
The Magnificent
Magnificent

Worst “Pick-Up Line” lyrics

NSYNC “God Must Have Spent A Little More Time On You”

Your love is like a river
Peaceful and deep
Your soul is like a secret
That I never could keep
When I look into your eyes
I know that it’s true
God must have spent…
A little more time
On you…
(A little more time, yes he did baby)

Best “Lifting Children out of Poverty” lyrics

Audio Adrenaline “Kings & Queens”

Little hands, shoeless feet, lonely eyes looking back at me
Will we leave behind the innocent too brief
On their own, on the run when their lives have only begun
These could be our daughters and our sons
And just like a drum I can hear their hearts beating
I know my God won’t let them be defeated
Every child has a dream to belong and be loved

[Chorus:]
Boys become kings, girls will be queens
Wrapped in Your majesty
When we love, when we love the least of these
Then they will be brave and free
Shout your name in victory
When we love when we love the least of these
When we love the least of these

I would love to hear some of the “best” and “worst” lyrics that have influenced your life.

Wake up! Breathe deep! There are treasures we must find!

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You are far more amazing than you’ll ever realize
Much more greater than the world’s pack of lies

People won’t appreciate your hard work. Work hard anyway
Sleep deep, dream well, for tomorrow will quickly become today

You can live fully alive, or you can live waiting to die
One is risky and fun, the other is safe and a lie

Today move from the victim’s role to the role of creativity
Victim’s look for blame, while other’s risk new activity

Move from finding someone to blame to finding someone to extol
Move from finding someone to judge to finding someone to know

Try something this week that is out of your comfort zone
Even when the crowd runs to safety and you are all alone

Being relevant takes more risks, creates more ups and downs
It’s more difficult than popularity, which is easy to be found

Judging others has to do with low self-esteem and holding a grudge
My job is to offer grace to those the world has already judged

I spend my time creating my own caste arrangement
Though we are far more the same than we are distant

I want to save the world, but I’m having trouble saving myself
My focus is on others while I’m struggling finding my own help

700 million dollars spent on Valentine’s for our pets
While children die for lack of 10 dollar mosquito nets

350 million spent on pets at Halloween
While 55 dollars gives families water that’s clean

93 percent of Californians don’t go to church, lack of hope
I’m spending too much time trying to please the 7, lack of scope

God’s biggest desire is to have our presence
I talk about his goodness, though it’s past tense

I need his mercy, but I leave it behind
It’s new everyday, yet it bleeds out my mind

Grace turns quickly to rules, morals and obligations
It turns into committees, methods and gyrations

We pack God in a box, in our minds it’s a clear history
We have lost all the awe, we have lost all the mystery

Faith is called faith, because we cannot see
Yet we preach that less doubt leads to maturity

I say, the closer I get to my creator, the less I know
Big words, eloquent prayers, it’s all about the show

Faith is calling out, it’s doubting while believing
Everyone wants it, yet still everyone is leaving

A better understanding of God takes a world view
Compassion grows while walking in another’s shoe

I pray that God doesn’t dress like a politician
I pray he doesn’t gossip like a beautician

I hope He laughs at my vain attempts to be perfect
I know He cries and  heart breaks when he sees injustices’ evil effect

God says that he is close to broken-hearted man
He also says, when we love them, we love him

Righteousness is more than morality and being right
I’m thankful because I don’t look good in white

A widow’s mite is worth more than a portfolio on Wall Street
I waste more money in a day, than Africans earn in a week

I am told not to live on guilt, yet I wrestle with much affliction
My struggle is daily and good, for it is leading to healthy conviction

I am thinking that we have just scratched the surface of potential
I am looking for a new storm of grace, drowning us in its torrential

Fear comes not from God, it comes from another kind
God give deep love, sustaining power and a sound mind

Wake up! Breathe deep! There are treasures we must find!
In the words of C.S. Lewis, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

5 Things Every Church Should Do (Part 3)

Every church should have funeral and grieving ministries that love and care for families during some of their darkest times.

Tom looks a lot like Santa Claus, plays the acoustic guitar a lot like James Taylor, and teaches children a lot like no one else.

A group of us from my church took a trip to West Africa and we were able to witness Tom’s amazing skills teaching local and global children about how special they were and how they were loved by God.

When we would walk through small villages, Tom would lead the way playing his guitar.

Children would appear out of nowhere, yelling, “Papa Noel! Papa Noel!” and before you knew it, the children were singing brand new songs, following their new found friend.

To say that Tom has a gift is an understatement.

To say that Tom was made by God to teach and invest in children is an obvious statement.

To say that Papa Noel’s joy and smile comes easy is about not knowing about the hole in his heart.

Five years ago, Tom lost his soul mate, the love of his life, his wife, a phenomenal teacher in her own right.

He lost her to cancer, a long, heroic fight that they fought together, and when she succumbed to the dreaded disease, Tom found himself exhausted, alone and wondering if life would ever make sense again.

He would tell you that there has never been a greater marriage.

And he would tell you that there has never been a greater pain.

To this day, every once in a while, I can see that look in Tom’s eyes, the twinkle in those baby blues is a little subdued, and I will put my arm as far around Papa Noel as I can.

I will ask him, “How are you today my friend?” and he will say, “It is a sad day. But I will be ok. My heart just hurts. And the sky is a little gray. But God is good.”

Every church should have funeral and grieving ministries.

This is what my church’s funeral and grieving ministries look like:

The family and friends who have experienced loss will sit with staff and volunteers to plan the service with the church offering everything they need such as live music, pictures, DVD production, food planning and post grief share options.

When the service happens, all the family has to do is celebrate a life and grieve a loss.

They do not have to worry about any of the details, so they can be there in the moment with the freedom to mourn.

After the service, the family and friends move to our café where food is provided as people share a meal and tell more stories and the healing of sad hearts begins.

We have seen miracles happen in that café where family members who have not spoken in years for many reasons are reconnected and reconciled.

After the service is over, we offer a grief share class 52 weeks a year, where healthy grieving is learned and a new community of friendships are forged.

90% of our funerals are for people who are not connected to a church.

We charge nothing.

Oh, and by the way…every church should do this!

It is one of the most difficult and blessed things we do.

But let me warn you, Grace is messy!

And let me warn you, when a church begins to do this, it will never be the same…and you will never want to go back!

I remember meeting with some leaders from a church that wanted to start doing funerals.

They seemed eager to learn until we told them we do not charge.

You could see them add up the costs.

I told them, “It is called faith to do the right thing when you are not sure how it will work out.”

We also told them that some funerals get a little messy and raw.

We did a funeral several years ago for a family that lost a 43 year old father.

This family was a little rough around the edges and for the first time seeking God during this crises.

During the reception, with about 100 people eating, the family asked us if we could put in a DVD of some pictures they didn’t show during the service.

The DVD started with pictures of birthday parties, fishing trips and camping when all of a sudden a stripper at a bachelor party appeared on screen and we froze. (We now have a new policy: “Do not show pictures we haven’t looked at yet!”)

One of our young men volunteering in the kitchen, was sweeping, looked up, saw the picture, looked back down and kept sweeping. (Good job young man.)

Before we could do anything about it, the picture was gone and pictures of birthday parties, family gatherings and hunting trips appeared again.

Another one of our volunteers, in her seventies, saw the picture, and said, “Well, this is why we do what we do.”

I love her! She gets it.

I do not have time to tell you all the healing that has happened through our funeral and grieving ministries, but it is one of the most important things we do!

Last year we held 55 funerals.
This year we are on the same pace.

Every funeral brings heartbreak and healing. Hurt and hope. Loss and redemption.

It is a ministry very close to the heart of God.

I started this post by telling you about my friend Tom(Papa Noelle). The first time I met Papa Noelle was at his wife’s funeral at my church and now Tom is part of our church helping others heal.

I am a much, much better person because I know him.

Every church should have funeral and grieving ministries that love and care for families during some of their darkest times.

Check out tomorrow as I share part 4 of “5 Things Every Church Should Do.”

What Does God Think About Prayer?

One of the most counter-intuitive moments in scripture is when the children of Israel are trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea.

The people are panicked, angry at Moses for getting them in this mess, yelling at him, asking why he had them escape just to die, telling him they would rather be slaves in Egypt than slaughtered in the desert.

It wasn’t a great “leadership moment” for Moses.

On top of them being angry, Moses gives some advice and guidance that seems right initially, but he gets it totally wrong.

He tells them, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today.”

Sounds like good advice and great faith, doesn’t it?

We hear this advice all the time.

“Don’t be afraid. Stand still and the Lord will rescue us from this sad world.”
“Don’t be afraid. Stand still and the Lord will take care of the poor.”
“Don’t be afraid. Stand still and the Lord will bless us and give us the desires of our heart.”
“Don’t be afraid. Stand still and the Lord will take care of our needs.”

This was God’s response to Moses’ advice to, “Not be afraid. Stand still and watch the Lord rescue.”

He said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Quit praying and tell the people to get moving!”

Now I grew up in church and I never heard one sermon where the pastor told us to quit praying.

In fact it seemed like all we did was pray.
We prayed for Jesus to come back.
We prayed that evil people would get their due.
We prayed that we would  not get stained by an immoral world.
We prayed for who would become president.
We prayed that God would bless us financially.
We prayed that other denominations would become holy like we were.
We even prayed for people less fortunate than us.
We prayed, went home for a week, and then came back and prayed again.
We prayed often, with eloquence.
Our church would have won a prayer contest.
We even had a chapel called the “House of Prayer.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for prayer.

Prayer is where I gain my intimacy with God.
Prayer is where I get the power to live.
Prayer is where I gain wisdom.
Prayer is where I find peace.
Prayer is where I experience rest.
Prayer is the foundation to my life in faith.

So why did God tell Moses to quit praying and get moving?

Well, here is my theory. And I think it is a pretty good one.

Many times prayer is an excuse to not do something that we know God has already told us to do.

There are many things we don’t have to pray about.

Serving the poor.
Caring for orphans.
Taking care of widows.
Being a father to the fatherless.
Feeding the hungry.
Sheltering the homeless.
Clothing the naked.
Forgiving our enemy.
Rescuing young women and children who have been sex trafficked.
Fighting injustice.

These are things we don’t have to pray and ask whether it is God’s will or not.

In fact, it is possible to actually pray more while moving farther and farther away from God.

God spoke through the prophet Isaiah once and said, “When you lift your hands in prayer, I will not look at you. No matter how much you pray, I will not listen…See that justice is done—help those who are oppressed, give orphans their rights, and defend widows.”

This may be blasphemy, but I would like to challenge the American church to pray less and do more.

Get out of your prayer meetings and go help someone.

Leave your worship services and feed someone.

Stop talking about the poor and invite the homeless into your services.

Stop building bigger buildings and spend more money on local and global missions.

Stop looking the other way and sponsor children in poverty stricken countries. (www.compassion.com)

Cancel your women’s teas and your men’s breakfasts and rebuild a widow’s home or mentor a child who has no father.

Stop praying for blessings and help those who God has asked us very clearly to help, because that is where the blessings are!

I believe that God is saying today, “Stop asking me for more things, stop asking me about my will, I have made it very plain what I want you to be doing.” (Read Isaiah 58, Matthew 25, James 1:27, Psalms 82)

I think He would go on to say, “And while you are doing those things, pray! Pray hard, pray often, and I will give you the strength and the wisdom and courage to shine your light and “storm the gates” of poverty and hopelessness and loneliness and the world will be drawn to Me and the world will know that I am love.”

What happened when God told Moses, to quit praying and get moving?

They experienced a miracle.

May the church do the same!

Share with me what you think about this topic after reading some great quotes about prayer and action:

Action without prayer is arrogance, prayer without action is hypocrisy. – Jose Zayas

Action is the normal completion of the act of will which begins as prayer. That action is not always external, but it is always some kind of effective energy. – Dean Inge

Witness the fact that in the Lord’s Prayer, the first petition is for daily bread. No one can worship God or love his neighbor on an empty stomach. – Woodrow Wilson

About all I can say for the United States Senate is that it opens with a prayer and closes with an investigation. – Will Rogers

Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays. – Søren Kierkegaard

Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day; give him a religion, and he’ll starve to death while praying for a fish. -Author Unknown

I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs. – Frederick Douglass, escaped slave

Practical prayer is harder on the soles of your shoes than on the knees of your trousers. – Austin O’Malley

Before we can pray, “Lord, Thy Kingdom come,” we must be willing to pray, “My Kingdom go.” – Alan Redpath

Call on God, but row away from the rocks. – Indian Proverb

Prayer begets faith, faith begets love, and love begets service on behalf of the poor. – Mother Teresa

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.

The Opposite of Fear is Love

My son goes to school in Southern California and works for a grocery store chain.

He was working late one night when a man came running into the store, past my son, turned around, about twenty feet from him, and started shooting in his direction.

The man was actually shooting at a policeman who had run into the store, but the policeman was right behind my son, so the bullets were flying towards both of them.

My son lunged to the left to avoid the bullets, but the policeman lunged left also.

There was a Doritos display between the shooter and my son so as he was diving out of the way, shards of nacho cheese Doritos were flying everywhere. The sliding glass doors at the front of the store where shattering from the bullets also.

My son said everything moved in slow motion, but the noise was deafening.

Long story short, my son(who we call superman now) was actually faster than the speeding bullets and as he avoided the bullets, the cop began to shoot back and eventually shot the man.

My son was shaken up a little, and had to spend some time getting nacho cheese chips out of his hair, but overall was fine, but he had to sit in the police station all night giving reports about what he saw.

While he was at the station, he met an interesting couple.

This couple was from the state of Washington and the man was a professor of accounting at Washington State. They were in Southern California because the university my son goes to was interested in hiring him.

The man had always wanted to teach at a Christian college, but his wife was nervous about moving to California because it seemed like a dangerous, wild kind of place.

The University said, “Why don’t you come down and just check out the place.” So they did.
They landed at the airport and while driving to check into their hotel, they decided to stop by a local grocery store to pick up some snacks.

When they drove in front of the store, bullets started hitting the side of their rental car. Yes, the same bullets my son was avoiding inside.

This couple had been in California for 2 hours and their worst fears were coming true. They had become a part of a Hollywood movie.

The couple was uninjured, but they had to go to the police station, and this is where they met my son. When they told him the story, my son was thinking, “Well, this is the last time they will ever come to California.”

After giving reports to what they saw, everyone left the police station going their separate ways.

About three months later, my son was working a late shift at the grocery store and he turned around and there was this lady from the state of Washington.

Bonded by flying bullets my son ran and gave her a big hug and asked her what she was doing there and she said that they had decided to take the job and move to California.

She told my son, “We were not going to let some random act of violence keep us from doing what God was wanting us to do. We were not going to let fear have the last word!”

I love that couple!

Fear takes away the gift of today, and robs us of God’s dreams for us for tomorrow.
Fear stops us from doing great things.
Fear stops us from seeing miracles.

The Apostle Paul faced all kinds of life threatening situations yet said, “The Lord has not given us a spirit of fear, but he has given us a spirit of power, love and a sound mind.”

The fact is you can’t remove all the risks out of life.

Life is composed of a series of risks, being born, leaving the house, driving, making friends, getting married, having kids(that is a real scary one), careers, health, eating sushi, being a Sacramento Kings fan, going to the broken places of this world.

Why has God put us in this kind of world?
Because He wants His love to triumph over our fears.
He wants us to experience His miracles.
He wants His miracles to bring Him glory.

The children of Israel were getting ready to pass through the Red Sea and experience a miracle, but they responded in fear when Pharoah and his army had them trapped.

Fear makes us sarcastic, “Moses, did you bring us out in the desert to die?”
Fear keeps us in unhealthy situations, “Moses, let us go back and keep serving the Egyptians.”
Fear makes us very short-sighted, “Moses, it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than die in the desert.”

At Disneyland there is a ride called Space Mountain.

When you are standing in line there are warning signs that tell you why you shouldn’t ride this ride. “If you are pregnant or you get dizzy or you get bloody noses or if you have a bad heart or back, if you have bad breath, bad fashion, hemorrhoids, back hair, a bad comb-over, a mullet, or a fanny pack you should not ride this ride.”

The list disqualifies most Americans.

While you’re waiting, there are about five or six turnouts, where you can chicken out and get out of line. But there is a point, when they strap you into that little bobsled, where there’s only one way out. You’re going to have to take the ride.

That is what I call the moment of truth.

That is where the children of Israel were at the Red Sea.

And they had an opportunity to believe, to have faith, but instead, they respond in fear.
They have just spent four hundred years in slavery.
They have been beaten, mistreated, abused, killed, starved, and overworked for four hundred years and now they’re saying, “Let’s go back.”

God will constantly put us in scary situations where it will be tempting to play it safe rather than go forward into uncertain territory so that He can do a miracle.

How do we overcome our fears?

Psalm 56:3 says, “When I am afraid, I will put my confidence in God… Yes, I will trust the promises of God.”

We often think that the opposite of fear is courage. But the opposite of fear is love.

When we experience and receive and begin to live in God’s love, we become less fearful people. The apostle John said it like this, “There is no fear in love. Instead, perfect love drives fear away. Fear has to do with being punished. The one who fears does not have perfect love.” 1 John 4:18

How do we overcome our fears?

We must trust the promises of God (Psalm 56:3) and we must allow His love to drive out all of our fears.

My son returned to work the next day. His manager was shocked. “Why are you here? I thought you would be afraid to come back. I thought you would need some time off”.

Well, let me speak for my son. I believe that he trusts that his life is in God’s hands and that love, not fear will have the last word.