What Will Be Said?

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WHAT WILL BE SAID OF OUR GENERATION?

A generation blinded by wealth where poverty cannot be seen.

A generation who talks about feeding the hungry while paying for Weight Watchers because they can’t stop eating.

A generation that believes in sheltering the homeless, as long as they’re not near their over bloated homes.

A generation that worries about their growing status and expanding pleasures while children are worried about empty bellies and fragile futures.

WHAT WILL BE SAID OF OUR GENERATION?

A generation that is more globally aware than any other generation yet is obsessed with celebrity reality shows and stock market results.

A generation that is technologically brilliant yet socially stunted.

A generation that knows things ARE getting better but is afraid to finish the job.

A generation that is torn between self-indulgence and self-righteousness.

WHAT WILL BE SAID OF OUR GENERATION?

There is enough food for everyone.

Churches have more roofs than there are homeless.

Most diseases that kill are preventable.

The lack of education is fixable.

WHAT WILL BE SAID OF OUR GENERATION?

We prayed for the poor while building bigger barns.

We preached for justice while closing our eyes.

We fought sex trafficking while watching pornography.

We judged the homosexual while worshipping our idols.

WHAT WILL BE SAID OF OUR GENERATION?

We ignored building God’s kingdom while building our own.

We gossiped of our brothers and sisters while singing songs to our Creator.

We multi-tasked and networked while sitting alone.

We opened our mouths to poverty while closing our wallets to solution.

BUT WHAT COULD BE SAID OF OUR GENERATION?

We tithed, creating a mass of wealth that stunned the world and ended extreme poverty.

We adopted the orphan, ending the foster system as we know it.

We supported organizations like International Justice Mission, declaring that the end of slavery would happen on our watch.

We sponsored children around the world ensuring them an education, antiviral HIV drugs and an introduction to faith.

WHAT SHOULD BE SAID OF OUR GENERATION?

We decided that the gates of hell would not prevail and good would win over evil.

We decided that the most important part of a church service is what happens once we leave the parking lot.

We decided that it doesn’t profit to gain the whole world but lose our soul.

We decided that God is close to broken hearts and crushed spirits.

WHAT DO I HOPE WILL BE SAID OF OUR GENERATION?

We shunned consumerism and found joy in minimalism.

We ignored the American dream and pursued God’s pleasure.

We simplified our lives so that others could simply live.

We preached always and occasionally spoke words.

WHAT WILL BE SAID OF OUR GENERATION?

“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

The Generosity of the Poor

The Canyon

“You say you care about the poor? Tell me their names.” ― Craig Greenfield

The life expectancy is 40 years.
The lucky live on $2 a day.
The hope is one meal a day.
The dirt is their floor and the stars their roof.
The smell of methane fills their lungs.
The lack of choices interrupts their dreams.
They live 10 minutes from the richest country in the world.

These are the lives and challenges of the children and families in the closed garbage dumps of Tijuana, Mexico known as “The Canyon”.

As an American, many things are confusing and unsettling in “The Canyon.”

1. The Mexican government closed the dump, covered it with a couple feet of soil, marked off lots and sold this land back to its poorest citizens knowing that the health risks are devastating.

2. The desperateness of the situation attracts drugs and gangs leading to some very dangerous neighborhoods.

3. The lack of education(most have at best a 7th grade education) drives families to collect trash, burn it and take from it the few precious metals it leaves behind and sell it to the local multi-million dollar recycling company.

4. Children get caught in a vicious cycle where education becomes more difficult to continue as they grow older due to the cost and the need for a birth certificate by the 6th grade, while at the same time, parents need their kids to burn trash to look for income generating metals or watch over their younger siblings while they go off to work somewhere else. These are all obstacles to a higher education.

All of this is the definition of injustice. The first time an American takes a tour of “The Canyon” numbness, sadness, anger and guilt are the emotions that come flooding forth.

But the longer an American hangs out in “The Canyon”, other emotions and observations come forward.

1. There are heroic organizations, private schools and churches that have dedicated their resources and purpose to serve this forgotten community.

2. David Lynch started a school on a blue tarp and 20 years later, almost 100 children, ages 3-5 are getting an education, in a beautiful facility, learning English and computer skills, the two things that will eventually get them out of the canyon creating more options of making and living a decent life.

3. Dave Hessler, a retired American, has an office at the Blue Tarp school and is the unofficial community leader and connector of resources to needs. He meets with families and connects them to food, medical help and better home construction, while advocating for school child sponsorship and newer and bigger computer labs. Dave is a connector but most of all he is a conduit of hope as he listens and prays with each family, and though he can’t meet all the needs, people know he cares and that they are not alone.

4. One of the residents of “The Canyon”, Javier, a father of 6, with his 7th on the way, who lives in a 10 x 20 home, a large home for the canyon, advocates for the less fortunate in his community, having families stay with him while their smaller homes are getting first time roofs or dirt floors are being replaced by cement or walls are being expanded. Javier has so little yet his smile and gratitude is very humbling. Surprisingly Javier’s attitude is representative of many of the residents in “The Canyon”.

With all the injustice and heroism you see in “The Canyon”, as an American, the biggest thing I took away from “The Canyon” was a sense of my own poverty. My life lacks so much.

My lack of gratitude.
My lack of contentment.
My lack of caring for my neighbor.
My greed, ignorance and self-focused priorities exposed my poverty.

As I think of ways to help fight poverty in “The Canyon” I am also thankful for how they are helping me with my own poverty.

This is the way God works. He confounds the seemingly strong and successful by teaching us through the seemingly weak and forgotten.

John Steinbeck in the “Grapes of Wrath” wrote, “If you’re in trouble, or hurt or need – go to the poor people. They’re the only ones that’ll help – the only ones.”

The times I have spent over the years in the canyons of Tijuana, Mexico to the valleys of La Mission and Guadalupe, Mexico, Mr. Steinbeck is exactly right.

The generosity of a meal given by a single mom who has nothing, the working along side a father who is struggling to make ends meet, who is helping his homeless neighbor build his house, to a young child wanting to give back to me a portion of the candy I had just handed him is counter-intuitive and mind sheering to an American who never has enough, is constantly worried about the future and holds on to things way to tightly.

As you decide to fight injustice and care for the poor, AND YOU MUST, it is God’s mandate, brace yourself for the lessons you will learn and the freedom you will experience and the strength you will discover through “the least of these.”

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The Day After

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It’s the day after Easter and I wonder what is going to happen?

This weekend thousands of churches put on their best show, with worship leaders showcasing their finest music and pastor’s doing their best to wax eloquently.

Lots of time, energy and resources were put into these services to make them the best they could be.

Many of the services came off in a spectacular way, but sadly, these kinds of services do not happen the rest of year.

This weekend hundreds of millions of people around the world went to church in light of the tradition of Easter.

Most people who would consider themselves Christians or believers of God made it a point to find a church and take time to hear and be reminded about the ramifications of the resurrection.

Many people, I am sure, enjoyed the music and were moved by the message, but sadly, they will probably not return next week, or the week after that, or the week after that.

It’s the day after Easter and I wonder if the churches that took so much time and energy to present the Easter message in a spectacular way are working just as hard on this next weeks music and message.

It’s the day after Easter and I wonder if church leaders know that their will be broken, hurting people showing up to their church this week who didn’t make it to church last week who need excellent moving music and a passionate, deeply thought out message.

It’s the day after Easter and I wonder if church leaders realize that their will be some people returning this week after being moved and encouraged by last’s weeks Easter service.

I wonder what they will experience?

It’s the day after Easter and I wonder if the people who attended and were motivated by the Easter service will take the time to come back and learn more about God’s grace.

It’s the day after Easter and I wonder if that motivation will lead to different behavior?

Will they choose Grace over the prison of legalism?

Will they choose to forgive rather than remain in the dark room of bitterness?

Will they choose to serve others and turn away from the emptiness and dissatisfaction of consumerism?

Will they choose to work on their vices or will they fall back into destructive patterns that tear away at relationships?

Will they choose to be less fearful or will they play it safe, running as quickly as they can back to their comfort zone?

Will they choose to allow their heart to be broken for the poor or will they guard their heart, staying distracted by the busyness of their culture.

Will they choose to save an extra $1 or so a day and sponsor a child thus introducing them to their savior Jesus, removing them from extreme poverty, saving them from fatal diseases and protecting them from the horrors of child slavery or will they buy things they don’t really need to impressive people they don’t really like?

Will they choose to make a new habit of coming weekly to church to learn new things, to make new friends and to grow new strength that can only happen by worshipping together?

It’s the day after Easter and people must decide do they really believe that God so loved the world that he sent Jesus do die for their sins and whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.

The word “believe” that Jesus used is the Greek word “pisteuo” which means, “to trust in, to cling to, to rely on, to commit to.”

Over 80% of Americans believe intellectually about what Jesus did and said.

But Jesus says, to believe means to trust him with your life, and to rely on his Grace and to commit to his ways.

It’s the day after Easter and people must decide if they really believe(pisteuo).

It’s the day after Easter and these are my questions.

It’s the day after Easter and this is where the real work begins.

From Every Tribe and Every Nation…a few thoughts from Africa

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From every tribe, and every nation
My faith transcends denomination
Culture, colors none the same
Redemption comes in Yeshua’s name

Stuck in my view, its far too narrow
My earthly eyes see too much sorrow
Babies die and mothers weep
Big men lie while others sleep

Told tough times lead to deeper faith
I still avoid them like the plague
Addicted to teaching, binder full of notes
The harvest is plentiful, but my actions remote

White, yellow, brown, red and black
There is no shade that God lacks
Transformation, it’s a lifetime journey
Humility is key to eternal learning

I’m looking for joy so I can be grateful
But joy doesn’t come until I am thankful
With crippled feet I run the race
Mud knee deep, carried by Grace

Prejudice rampant, wars rage
Holy genocide litters history’s page
Religion rules, picking the chosen ones
Ignoring the words “whosever will may come.”

Overwhelmed by conditions
Missed opportunities, lost positions
Challenges daily, endurance a must
Searching for strength, faith and trust

Heroes all around, they’re just hard to see
Quietly walking with God humbly
Africa, Asia and unknown lands
Extending love as God’s own hands

Leading is vision, I must give it away
Strategies come and go, but deep values must stay
A new generation, called to invest
The Body too small, we need the rest

I want all the answers, a path that is clear
A path that is easy with nothing to fear
But my sights too short, and patience, I’m far from it
Faith means building the bridge while I’m walking upon it.

We bless the poor but the poor are already blessed
When I’m serving the least I am truly at my best
New beginnings start with a broken heart
Stupid poverty ends when I do my part

The church is asking “what’s the next fashion?”
Fighting injustice is God’s great passion
Theology debates, they lead to deep fraction
Loving one another is our call to action

I desperately need an eternal view
It gives me the courage to do the things I must do
Opportunities all around me, there is power in His name
He gives sight to the blind and strength for the lame

I desperately need an eternal view
Embracing the temporary is our cultures cue
My life is on loan, it is not my own
It’s not about great feats, but the seeds that are sown

Male, female, Jew, Samaritan and gentile
Grace is pervasive, it starts with a child
The greatest among us was born in a stable
The Good New is for all, the weak and the able

Will we be exclusive, just another sect
Or will we serve our neighbor, gaining their respect
Will we love the orphan, the widow and those who fall
Will we be known as restorer of cities and re-builder of walls

Generous people are rarely mentally ill

Have you ever been so fired up about something that you didn’t exactly have a lot of tact when it came to communicating what you were fired up about?

My wife is a very laid back person. She is extremely talented so she doesn’t have to say a lot(unlike me).

It takes a lot for my wife to get fired up.

When my son was about eight years old he was riding his roller blades in our garage and drive-way and for some reason he decided to dart into the street in front of a car that was coming up the road.

The car almost hit him and then my wife almost hit him.

With great passion she yelled at him, “Don’t you ever go in the street again without looking or I will kill you before the car kills you!”

Neighbors started locking their doors!

There is a portion of scripture where the author James is fired up and is not concerned about the lack of tact in how he delivers this extremely important message.

“You rich people should cry and weep! Terrible things are going to happen to you.”

“Your treasures have already rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.”

“Your money has rusted, and the rust will be evidence against you, as it burns your body like fire.”

“Yet you keep on storing up wealth in these last days.”

“You refused to pay the people who worked in your fields, and now their unpaid wages are shouting out against you.”

“While here on earth, you have thought only of filling your own stomachs and having a good time, but now you are like fat cattle on their way to be butchered.”

C’mon James, tell us how you really feel?

James is pretty fired up because he is seeing rich people taking advantage of the poor.

He is seeing powerful people exploiting the powerless.

He is seeing excessive living that is keeping others from living at all.

The first century church took this very seriously.

They chose to live simply so that others could live.

The scriptures state about the early church that “…All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.”

The scriptures go on to say that, “There were no needy persons among them”

They ended poverty. Not the government. Not a NGO.
Not a few rich people. The church did!

The church ended poverty.

Could you imagine them saying that about the church  in the 21st century?

What a legacy we could leave.

I think it is a legacy we can leave. I am not the only one who thinks this.

Dr. Scott Todd writes in his book, FAST LIVING,

“22 countries have cut their malaria rate in half in only six years.”

“We used to say that 40 thousand children die each day from preventable causes. In the 1990’s, that number dropped to 33 thousand per day. By 2008, it dropped further to 24 thousand. Today, 21 thousand!”

“In 1981, 52 percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty. Today that number is 26 percent. We have already cut the percentage of people living in extreme poverty in half! And we did it in one generation.”

“And that is with only 9% of American Christians tithing. Do you see our potential?”

“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 in philanthropy by simply obeying one of God’s biblical principles of generosity.”

The American church is the richest church in the history of the church so Jesus will definitely hold us accountable to the words, “To whom much is given, much is required.”

James words that lack tact are more relevant today and should lead us to urgent action!

My parents taught me the principal of the tithe when I got my first paper route when I was ten years old.

I delivered two hundred papers 3 days a week.

It was a lot of work for a ten year old.

I once crashed into the back of a parked pickup while I was looking sideways trying to throw the Orangevale News onto an elderly person’s porch. I was unhurt, but my pride was bruised and my front wheel bent.

After delivering papers for my first month and doing collections for a 35 cent a week paper, I received 40 dollars for one month’s work.

It was 1975 and I was ten years old.

You might as well have given me a thousand dollars.

I was so excited about the potential slurpies and baseball cards with bubble gum I could purchase at the local Seven-Eleven.

But before I could spend anything, my mom gently reminded me of the tithe and so I, not so much out of enthusiasm but more out of obedience, put 4 dollars into an envelope and saved it for the next Sunday’s offering.

Since then I have tithed my entire life. I am very thankful for my parents teaching and example.

It has brought me and my family much joy, peace and purpose to my life.

The root word of “miserable” is “miser”. Need I explain more?

Karl Menninger, the dean of American psychiatry, says “Giving is a criterion of mental health. Generous people are rarely mentally ill.”

I want to thank all of the generous people at my church who are helping end poverty in our own community and around the world.

I have always said that my church is not a rich church but a generous church.

These are my favorite verses about generosity:

“The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.” Proverbs 11:24 (Message)

“The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself.” Proverbs 11:25 (NKJV)

“God blesses everyone who is kind to the poor.” Proverbs 14:21 (CEV)

“Caring for the poor is lending to the LORD, and you will be well repaid.” Proverbs 19:17 (CEV)

“Be generous and share your food with the poor. You will be blessed for it.” Proverbs 22:9 (GNT)

“Be generous to the poor—you’ll never go hungry.” Proverbs 28:27 (Message)

“Be fair and give justice to the poor and homeless.” Proverbs 31:9 (CEV)

“Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.” Proverbs 31:9 (NLT)

A Leader’s Lament

Sometimes I care too much, my ego trumps reason
Sometimes I don’t care enough, it depends on the season
I beat the drum often, not wanting others to forget
Not sharing in my passion, they insincerely acquiesce

Only a few things matter, yet my brain is scattered
One word of criticism, and my worth is shattered
When it comes to living, when it comes to teamwork
Everyone talks the talk, but the walk is misgiving

“We” are stronger than “I”, as long as “I” gets the credit
My humility most impressive, I’ll tell you all about it
I want the truth, desperately seeking transparency
Yet words are guarded, dishonesty flowered deceptively

I’m here for you, I’ve got your back
I believe in you, there’s nothing I lack
Unless someone disagrees, unless someone moans
Then I need to step away, I need courage on loan

A fish out of water, is a fish out of air
I have something in common, it’s something I share
Take care of my cause, take care of my needs
Then I’ll let people know, you are a wise man who leads

But leading isn’t popularity, it isn’t first to please
It isn’t taking polls, it’s not putting people at ease
It means having deep convictions, having secure beliefs
It means staying true to course, not taking relief

The hill I climb is lonely, often feeling stranded
The hill I climb is baren, often taken for granted
The hill I climb is noble, the hill I climb is inspiring
As long as it does not get in the way of your living

Females raped and murdered, where is the rage?
It seems important, but message gets back page
The church is the answer, the message of justice we bring
But the words get muted, arguing over the songs we sing

Children die before 5, $20 is the solution
My debit card is low, comfort my main concern
I have the money, but I’m keeping up with the Jones’
Car, House, Boat, busy paying off the loans’

The world needs billions, seems overwhelming
Billions would not compare, if Christians were tithing
I can’t do it all, but I can open the door
If I learn to say “No”, I can do so much more

Boys without role models, absent of fathers
They are not on my block, so why even bother
But the needs are great, the opportunities do not lack
I am the change I pray for, but my schedule is packed

Options are good, until there are too many
Poverty cries out, “I don’t have any”
America the beautiful, everyone given equal chance
Unless born in the hood, equality becomes a fat chance

More concerned about position, more about my security
My dreams are much more daring, as I live in my safety
Been told to be quiet, told “balance” is for the wise
There’s no more heroes, “well rounded” is our demise

I check my heart, I check by pride
I check my will, putting desires aside
I live in abundance, my challenges are few
When I say I have problems, I ask, “Compared to who?”

People want the world to be like them
I say, they should want the world to be like HIM
As soon as I say my theology is a lock
I have just put God right in a box

My faith is bigger than Republican or Democrat
My faith is stronger than where the world is at
Jesus created this world, then gave his life
He asks me to love this world, then give up my life

Sometimes I care too much, my ego trumps reason
Sometimes I don’t care enough, it depends on the season
But one thing I know, one thing I am sure
That loving orphans and widows is a religion that’s pure!

5 Things Every Church Should Do (Part 2)

The second thing every church should and must do is to lead the way in caring for the homeless.

And I am not talking about occasionally doing something nice for people who do not have shelter.

I am not talking about dabbling in niceness with a yearly thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Though, that is a good start.

I am not talking about doing flybys where the homeless live.

I am not talking about waiting to see what the local government is going to do for those who are homeless and then complain that they are not doing enough.

I AM talking about fully engaging in discovering what the true needs are for those without shelter.

I AM talking about building long term relationships with people who for many diverse reasons have found themselves in this difficult situation.

I AM talking about the church leading the way, by example, in investing in people who God has mandated us to take care of, by providing food, clothing, shelter, life skill classes and more.

I AM talking about the church inviting the homeless into their church services, treating them like the very brother and sisters they are.

God instructed the church in Isaiah 58 to:

”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.”

Then God gives us amazing promises and blessings to us if we do those things:

“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.”

“Then when you call, the LORD will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.”

“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.”

Pretty cool promises and blessings if we get involved in the things God is passionate about.

Over the years God has blessed the church I go to, not because we are more holy than others, and not because we are smarter or better than anyone else.

I think God has blessed my church because it tries to take the words from Isaiah 58 seriously.

Every Saturday morning there is a service held in our Café, where a lesson is given, a free breakfast is served, groceries and fresh vegetables from our organic garden are given and clothes are offered to those who are in need.

On average, each Saturday morning, around 250 breakfasts are served, 150 bags of groceries are taken and around 1500 articles of clothing are given away.

This happens while relationships are being built and volunteer pastoral partners pray with families who are going through difficult times.

Focusing on others needs also allows our faith to grow and our priorities to change.

On one weekend, during the middle of winter, our clothing director told me that they needed men’s shoes to give to men who were spending a lot of time out in the elements with inadequate protection for their feet.

I announced at our 4 weekend services that we needed men’s shoes and not the stinky, worn out shoes that we eventually get rid of. I told them we need nice shoes that will bring warmth and dignity for our guests.

It was one of the most memorable weekends I have been a part of.

Men, as they were leaving the services, were taking off their shoes, their nice shoes, many worth over $100, and leaving them in our lobby and walking out to their cars in the pouring rain.

Over 200 pairs of shoes were left that day. One man told me that as he drove home in his wet socks it helped him have greater compassion for those who live out in cold, wet conditions.

He told me it challenged him to simplify his life and to be more thankful for how blessed he was.

One family, after one of the services, drove to a local sporting goods store and bought a couple dozen pairs of tennis shoes and brought them back quietly and left not wanting to get the credit.

Not all the people attending our Saturday morning breakfast are homeless, but these resources help people prioritize their finances keeping them in their homes.

But for those who are homeless, it allows them to eat a warm meal, hear a hope-filled message and begin to build healthy relationships.

It helps them make connections to resources, people and classes that will help them get back on their feet and find shelter.

Steve and Kelly Stockwell and Tom and Janice Carney are leading the way in how the church should respond to the plight of the homeless.

They have helped put a face to the reality of homelessness and have helped us understand the complexity, challenges and even the prejudices and wrong stereotyping that those without shelter face.

This last year during the winter season, several churches in our area created a rotating shelter, where those who wanted shelter could stay at the designated church for the evening.

Our church hosted our guests on Thursday and Friday nights. What a blessing it was for us. I think it was a blessing for them also.

Thursday nights worked well because we have Celebrate Recovery on those nights, so those who struggle with hurts, habits and hang-ups could show up to the service, learn, grow, heal and overcome, and then stay on campus and have a warm, dry place to sleep.

Friday nights worked well because our guests would spend the night and then wake up to our Saturday morning service, which we call “Common Ground” where they would receive that warm breakfast, groceries, clothing, prayer and love.

One man, this last winter, had found himself homeless because of addictions. He was a self-proclaimed agnostic, and then he began to watch how churches were opening their doors to him and praying for him, and he was blown away.

By spring, attending Celebrate Recovery he became a follower of Jesus and is now making amends with those he had burned bridges with.

One of my concerns about having a central shelter in a community is that many times it gives the local church an out.

I have talked to people in other communities who run shelters and they have trouble getting churches to get involved.

And if they do, they have a few people come to the shelter, but they do not have the homeless come to the church.

I think the power of community, healing and hope will happen when the church begins to open its doors and services to those that have been marginalized and forgotten.

This is just my opinion right now, but I don’t think we need to spend millions on a shelter when in every community, shelter and hundreds of thousands of square feet have already been built.

It is called the local church.

How many square feet in local churches sit there empty 90% of the time?

Don’t get me going on this one, but we don’t need more shelters, we need to open the doors of the shelters we already have.

It is time for the church to truly be the hands, feet and shelter that God has asked us to be.

It is time to reintroduce the meaning of “sanctuary.”

We have enough square feet.
We have enough shelter.
We have enough resources.

But do we have enough faith and guts to invite these precious people into the places we worship?

It is time the church leads the way.
It will be messy.
It will be blessed.
It is where we meet Jesus.

“Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.”

The second thing every church should and must do is to lead the way in caring for the homeless.

Check out tomorrow as I will write about the third thing every church should do.

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.

A poem and challenge to the local church

Distractions everywhere, doubters abound
Change the world? That reasoning is not sound
My face slaps reality, visions take back seat
My watch ticks fast, challenging great feats

I’m told be practical, I’m told to chill
I’m talked off my soapbox, told to stand still
Busy with mundane, busy with tasks
Children are dieing, our backs to the facts

Conversing about the day, waiting for weekend
2 days to do nothing, yet many die before weeks end
It seems strange to talk about my shallow fun
While food’s missing in ground scorched by sun

Religion in the big lights, inaugurating the next star
How do we entertain them, we have to raise the bar
While churches woo the converted, the all-ready convinced
There is a world giving up, believing God is “past tense”

We will win with arguments, we will win with laws
We will win with theology, we will win pointing flaws
Debating with bumper stickers, politicians bold and cunning
The TV preacher says we’ll get rich if we give him money

We proclaim salvation, we say we believe
Then why do we pick sides, asking others to leave
Good overcomes evil, love wins over creeds
Our hearts need transforming, touching those who bleed

Grace is messy, we all need the same
Cathedrals too clean, finding others to blame
It’s time to get dirty, it’s time for heart break
No more empty words, and a faith that’s fake

Time to serve the poor, it’s God’s investment plan
Time to open our doors to the homeless man
Time to live with less, so that children are blessed
Time to give our all, so that the world will know the rest

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.