All posts tagged "Devotions"

5 Myths About Poverty


CNN Belief Blog has a good post by Mark Lutz of Opportunity International which challenges popular misconceptions about the poor: Myth 1: People are poor because they are lazy or stupid. Poor people work incredibly hard, under harsh conditions, frequently seven days a week. With no welfare programs and no social networks, if they don’t work, they don’t eat. That’s reality. My work in microfinance has taken me to some 50 countries. I’ve watched men making bricks in equatorial sun from morning till night in exchange for $10; women hauling five-gallon containers on their heads and in each hand every morning to water their garden-size farm; children rifling through trash for recyclables to exchange for a meal. Despite their efforts, these hard-working people cannot get off their economic treadmills; they pass their generational poverty onto their children and grandchildren. Getting to know them as sisters and brothers, I can vouch that they are anything but lazy or stupid. The only reason for their life of misery and mine of relative luxury is where we were born. Myth 2: Poor people want handouts. We assume that a hungry person wants us to give them something to eat. Sure, if a mother’s children are hungry she’ll gladly accept a free meal. But what that person would much rather have is the opportunity to work and feed her family. Each time she accepts a handout she exchanges a portion of her dignity. In the Bible, God instructs farmers not to harvest the corner of their crops, but to leave it for the poor. God didn’t tell them to reap it and give the money to the poor, but to leave it for the poor to pick and eat. They need food, but they also need and want an opportunity to work. Every day some 25,000 people die from starvation. Disturbing as that may be, the real tragedy is that for 90 percent of them, there is no food shortage. They just can’t afford to buy available food. The appropriate response is not relief but development, including opportunities to work. Myth 3: Our foremost responsibility is America’s poor. The number one objection I hear to our work in the developing world is that we must first solve the problems in our own country. Yet half of humanity barely survives on $2 per day. And they don’t live here. We live in a generous country where last year more than $300 billion was given to charity from voluntary donations. As grand as that is, less than five percent goes to international work, leaving 95 percent in our own country for our churches, university endowments and symphonies. These are worthy causes, but charities that serve the wealthiest nation. I don’t think that’s what Jesus meant when in Matthew 25 he told his followers to serve “the least of these.” Myth 4: Jesus said we will always have extreme poverty. What Jesus said in Mark 14:7 was: “The poor you will always have with you.” Jesus recognized that some will always have less than others. But the kind of abject poverty that over one billion people endure—those living on $1 per day—wouldn’t be tolerated by Jesus and should not exist today. I honestly believe we can eradicate extreme poverty. And if we can, then we must. Myth 5: Jesus was concerned primarily about spiritual poverty. I grew up in South Africa, surrounded by missionaries. There was a subtle message that eternity is a lot longer than life. If someone is saved and bound for heaven, it doesn’t much matter how hungry their children are. But when Jesus began his public ministry, he read his mission statement: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor… To set free the oppressed.” (Luke 4:18). Though we must read on to understand the full gospel, if we seek to follow his example and teaching, we must bring good news to the poor and set free the oppressed. More than 2,000 verses in the Bible deal with the poor. Jesus had special solidarity with the poor and told us that if we love him, we will show it by caring for them. Mark has also authored UnPoverty:  Rich Lessons from the Working Poor which has this description: The poorest people in the world do not just survive–they thrive lavishly. They enjoy rich family relationships, build vibrant communities and exude deep faith. They have much to teach us about life and inspire us with their ingenuity, persistence, generosity and self-reliance… When we hear about the billions of people living on a few dollars a day, do we visualize what that means? These stories put individual faces on unimaginable statistics and bring their reality to life. You may even see yourself in them… Their poverty has more to do with latitude and longitude than with laziness or lack of intelligence. Through no fault of their own they are poor monetarily, but rich in areas many of us are bankrupt. The next time we pray for the poor, it may help to remember God’s definition of the term.


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“God actually delights in exalting our inability”


Pastor David Platt on the American church and following Christ via the New York Times: The tension between good and plenty, God and mammon, became the central tension in American life, propelling ferocious energies and explaining why the U.S. is at once so religious and so materialist. Americans are moral materialists, spiritualists working on matter. Platt is in the tradition of those who don’t believe these two spheres can be reconciled. The material world is too soul-destroying. “The American dream radically differs from the call of Jesus and the essence of the Gospel,” he argues. The American dream emphasizes self-development and personal growth. Our own abilities are our greatest assets. But the Gospel rejects the focus on self: “God actually delights in exalting our inability.” The American dream emphasizes upward mobility, but “success in the kingdom of God involves moving down, not up.” Platt calls on readers to cap their lifestyle. Live as if you made $50,000 a year, he suggests, and give everything else away. Take a year to surrender yourself. Move to Africa or some poverty-stricken part of the world. Evangelize. Although you don’t have to go overseas to evangelize or serve the poor.


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Worship as compassion


Moving from adoration to compassion in worship is a stretch for many of us. But the Scriptures tell us that if we love God, then we’ll obey God. If we really adore the beautiful things in God’s character, then we are to model and practice those things. If our worship is to be authentic, it has to be embodied in very real ways. Worship as compassion is an invitation to demonstrate our love for Christ by loving God’s children. By making this commitment in worship, we move our theoretical and sometimes rhetorical confessions of God’s love, into a felt sense of anticipation.  Our compassionate worship leaves us anticipating a response. Anticipating the possibility that what we have experienced in our own faith journeys can become real for someone else. Worship as compassion is also an indictment of our reality, testifying to the pain and vulnerability of our humanity. When we see others unjustly suffering under cruel oppression, we know that it’s not what God intended or designed. Compassion is what takes us to the next level and compels us to act on what we know. – Chris Tomlin, What Do We Mean By Worship, FQWorship.com. Also see what God has to say about worship and compassion for the poor.


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God’s restorative power


Great post here by Pastor Rick Duncan of Cuyahoga Valley Church in Cleveland which in part says: We know that we are not all we should be, but we read our Bibles. At least some. We pray. At least a little. We come to church. Most weekends. We live decent lives. Better than most. But when we ask God for some favors – for some blessings – it seems like He’s not holding up His end of the deal. Maybe your thinking, “Lots of stuff around me is broken; broken relationships, broken ministries, broken communities. And I want to see God work through me to restore things, but nothing good happens. So, I’m disappointed with God.” We have to know that there are times when God is not answering our prayers – not using us as restorers – because our hearts are not right with Him. Isaiah 58 tells us how our hearts need to change if we want God to use us to restore what’s broken around us. I hope this is the first post in a series.  Please post a comment and encourage Rick.


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God in the office


“The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. – Exodus 34: 6-8, NKJ God honors those who honor Him. An incredible blessing – and the reason God has granted Cross International favor – is in large part because we devote the first hour of every working day as a staff to Him.  We meet Monday through Friday everyday for a staff led devotion, followed by a Bible or Christian book study, mission report, and/or prayer for each other, our donors, and our field partners. If you are struggling with your choir, worship team, or staff, I heartily recommend regular, daily devotions.  It will hold your team together like nothing else can. Click here for more details.


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