The POOR We Always Have With Us

Jesus told us that we would always have the poor with us. It is easy to see that we indeed have many people who surround us and live in poverty. When Jesus talks about the poor was He referring to only those who are financially impoverished or did He include other types of poverty?

Of much greater concern to me is the number of people who are "poor in Spirit"--people who seemingly lack morals, values, and self-control. These are not necessarily virtues limited to Christianity but Christians should promote and endorse these components in their lives.

This does not excuse us from helping the financially poor but when we extend our hands of compassion we need to do more than just give a monetary or materialistic hand-out. We need to encourage people to live by moral behavior, value based decisions, and a willingness to exhibit self-control.


GRACE Never Fails

Grace never runs dry and that is one attribute that makes it so amazing. I strive to live as Jesus lived and yet all too frequently I miss the mark. When I realize my shortcoming(s), and ask for forgiveness, God does not disappoint but extends the forgiveness and simply states to me, "Go and miss the mark no more."

It is difficult for me to imagine what life would be without the attributes, such as peace, that accompany grace. Because I live in God's love--the good news is that I do not have to experience life without grace, patience, kindness, and peace.


Asking for Directions

How have I acknowledged God today so that He has directed my paths? If my paths have been directed by Him, has it been intentional or happenstance?

Just because I have not done anything "evil" or it has been a pretty good day does not mean that I have allowed God to direct my paths? If God led me, would I have chosen the same conversations, gone to the same places, or invested my time in the same ways? Until I learn to acknowledge God, I may continue to live in ignorance, thinking that all is well when in reality I am not letting God have control of my life.



There are many thoughts being communicated to the world as to what it means to be a Christian, what does a person who does not adhere to Christianity need to know? In my thinking it is that God is a God of love and does not want anyone to perish. A love that is willing to give its life so that others might live is foreign to the me first mentality of many Westerners.

Is the reason that people do not see this aspect of God because those of us claiming to represent Christ fail at this significant point, to love the people of the world with such commitment and devotion that we sacrifice our lives so that they might see God's love?

I hear many of us tell people that we love them but what do they perceive when they hear these worlds? Do they relate to a sacrificial love with their best interest at heart or to an a boyfriend that promises his love as he attempts to take advantage of a young lady or an abusive parent that intimidates and coerces their love? Let us not limit love to our words but let it be visible so that people can see our love and know that we are different from the rest of the broken visuals of love they have learned to accept.


Without Ceasing Communication

A lifestyle in constant communion with God through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, the presence of Christ, and the yielded human spirit seems to be the essence of what it means to 'pray without ceasing'. This challenge to us (pray without ceasing) is not about requests and intercession but rather about fellowship between God and we created beings.

If I abide in this communion, I then think and act as God would choose to act. At this level of communication, my response not only glorifies God but goes beyond this and allows people to see Christ in me.


Do You Have Enemies? LOVE Them!

It is easy for Christians to emphasize the statement, "We are to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect." The immensity of the task causes many of us to retreat into a shell as we know that it is beyond my (our) ability to live a perfect life.

However, the context of this phrase is 'loving our enemies'. This perfection is not about our conduct but are we able to generate unconditional love for our enemies. This understanding frees us from worrying about our behavior and allows us to concentrate on loving those who strike us as unlovable. After all this is what God has done for me, and I am thankful.


It's About Investing

In reading a book on poverty, I learned that three groups of people view money differently. The impoverished person uses money as a means to an immediate end. The middle class person sees money to be managed and controlled and the wealthy person views money for investment.

This seemingly applies to one's walk with the Lord as well. The 'poor' Christian wants worship that satisfies their wants and religion to make them happy at the time. The 'middle class' Christian wants to control their religious experience and work it into their schedule as they would any other activity. The 'wealthy' Christian is one who wants to invest in others and sees the future (Heaven) as the reward.


The Reason: LOVE

Peter writes that we are always to be prepared to give a reason for the hope that we have within in us. This has been advocated as a reason to develop a highly sophisticated apologetical defense of the gospel.

However, I would advance that there is a much simpler approach. The reason that I have hope is not because of my intellectual ability but rather -- God loves me. Even if I could prove each and every facet of what I believe and why, these would not persuade a person to accept or reject Christ (Paul posits this as well in Colossians and II Timothy). If a person can realize the truth of God's love and internalize this love, then we will see people turning to Christ because this deep love is not available except from God. The world can offer intellectual stimulation but not this kind of love.


Live RIGHTLY Before God and Humans

Paul wrote, "there is no condemnation in Jesus Christ". Jesus said it this way, "Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more." My literal take is "...go and live a life of righteousness" but it may be easier for people to grasp the idea of not sinning rather than living 'rightly' before God.

Jesus also stated that He came not to condemn but rather to save a world separated from God. What are the implications of these provocative thoughts to the manner in which I share my faith? Christ is talking about a religion in which one deliberately chooses to obey God and rules are not necessary because of our strong desire to respond in love.


Lo, I Am With You ALWAYS!

In the midst of some of our joyous occasions, sorrow is able to enter and disrupt these times. When one thinks that they have life figured out, then an unexpected event changes our perspective.

Life is not a program that we enter into our mental computer and expect that a desired outcome will ensue. Rather life revolves around constant shifts in our emotional state, leaving us distraught, overwhelmed, or rejoicing -- depending on the circumstances.

One man who received the adulation of the crowd witnessed an extreme about face as these same people that praised him, turned against him in a matter of a few days. Some of the last words of this man were, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the days." If Jesus faced these approval rating swings, we must assume that they are a part of life and accept His promise of being with us in all circumstances.


Improving My Vision

Scriptures tell us that without a vision the people perish. Since we speak and move, we do not realize that in the midst of our busyness, we can be perishing. I consider myself a person of reasonably good vision for the future and believe that I honestly desire that God would move in a mighty way in the midst of not only Living Hope FMC but also the Christian community around the world.

As I was praying today, the Lord let me know that my vision is good, HOWEVER; that does not make it His vision. He revealed that he desires to do exceedingly abundantly more than I could ever hope or imagine. This is exciting to see God step in after I finally realize that my thoughts are not His thoughts.


Loving With ALL MY Being....

One question hounds me occasionally and that is, "do I truly love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength?" If someone were to ask me that question, I would answer affirmatively because I know the correct response.

However, since God knows what is inside of people, would God confirm or deny my assertion? I often do not know my own limitations in extending love to another person. In my weakness, I am restricted to loving others to the degree that I am secure in peace and in love (I did not say feel secure but 'am secure'). If these are misunderstood or missing, my attempts to love take on baggage that clouds my expression of love. I believe that I am loving when in reality I may only be responding with what I know to be the right response as this is much easier than allowing God to cleanse and purify my heart and mind.



People scurrying about, heading both north and south on the road in front of the church, and yet we neglect that which is most important. The Psalmist reminds us to be still and know that He is God.

With our hectic pace, we only acknowledge God in our passing prayers and fleeting devotionals. We think these suffice, but the truth of the matter is that we do not KNOW God. Our knowledge knows about God but we still attempt to find fulfillment in maintaining a pace that draws the praise of others. God looks from afar and simply shakes His head and we continue, hoping that our pace will slow down, so that we can add another activity rather than a deeper relationship.



What's new? In a world in which so much remains the same, what is new? This paraphrase from Scripture, "His mercies are fresh every day" remind us that we have something new each day in our relationship with God. The Psalmist also tells us that these mercies are everlasting.
How does something of eternal stature become fresh everyday?

This is only accomplished by living in strong communion with God. Each day a fresh supply of mercy is available to sustain one through the challenges and opportunities of that day. These mercies will never fail while providing the necessary courage and assurance that God is walking along side of you. Confidently live with this expectation and your light should shine brightly in your corner of the world.



When Christ commands a disciple to go and sell all that he/she has and give it to the poor, does He mean everything? The tendency of we Americans is to horde incredible amounts of possessions, some with value but most have little value other than the concept that we are well to do because we have "stuff".

What could you rid yourself of today that would not affect your life? The fewer of this world's possessions one gathers, the freer one is to follow the call of Christ unequivocally. Christ stated that it is difficult to love God and have an unhealthy affection for the things of the world.


Controlling Your Mouth

Our mouths give accurate information of what is happening inside us. It is one thing to praise God and thank Him for the blessings that we enjoy and another to use this same instrument to express displeasure at one who is a part of God's creation.

I have been reminded how easily we can offend someone with our words. We may see these words as humorous and insignificant but if these words are derogatory and cutting to another person, then we have injured a friend or a loved one.

Paul writes that our words are to be beneficial to ALL who hear them and that they would be of encouragement to those who hear them. This challenge is one that we dare not neglect.


Are You A Good Farmer?

The neighborhood, which surrounds our church, does not appear to be 'white until harvest'. In walking through the apartment complex today, it was readily apparent that finances are difficult for many people, as I saw a significant number of eviction notices. Also, I was speaking with one of the workers, who had just been attacked by a group of high school teens.

It would be easy to assess that indeed this area is not ready for harvesting, however; if it is not ready for harvesting is it because we have not been sowing? Jesus reminds the disciples that the harvest comes because there has been seeds sown at a previous time. We MUST be either planting seeds or harvesting a crop, but we can not remain silent and uninvolved and expect to reap a harvest of 10, 30, or 100 fold.


Such Wondrous Love

We crave being loved and often times we take extreme measures or actions to receive this love but we only receive attention instead. The good news about Jesus Christ is that this love is extended without our having to impress Him.

The best definition I have for this God-like, unconditional love is "having such high regard and respect for another person that we work to do what is best for them". This is God's love for me, He works to bring me into relationship with Him through Jesus' dying on the cross -- that is what is best for me.


Avoiding this Age Is Challenging

Paul writes that we are not to be conformed to this age. It is easy to pick an aspect of our age, such as the drug culture or the sex industry, and pat ourselves on the back because we are avoiding these areas of our age.

As a Christian, raised in Western culture, I may be religiously able to sidestep these obvious degrading activities but how am I doing if I were to step away from Western culture. Will God see my participation in the materialistic greed as okay or will he raise the question to me, "what about the poor?"

I believe Paul wants us to do away with ALL aspects of this age and live rather to the standard of a Kingdom agenda. This causes me to daily evaluate my use of resources, time, energy, and emotions. I pledge, no matter how long it takes, to live to the expectations of the Kingdom culture.


Drawing Close to God

The person who flaunts the idea that they are growing closer to God is one who should cause another caution as to the veracity of the claim. In many instances when one claims this special bond forming with God, the emphasis is on one's self.

It is my observation that the closer one draws to God the more the focus is placed on others. I look for a genuine concern for others and specifically those persons who are overlooked by society in general. When one's emphasis is on these needs, I am inclined to think that this person is indeed drawing closer to God. The neat thing is they may not even realize it.


You Are NOT Normal

I hate to break the news to you (if you are unaware) that you are not normal. It is my belief that only two people existed in a normal state and that lasted until they ate of the forbidden fruit. Since that time each of us have been raised in a dysfunctional setting (you may contend with this assumption if you do NOT have a bellybutton).

As Christians, this means that we have the responsibility of growing in favor with God and man -- we have to mature emotionally as well as spiritually. I believe that we must accept our flaws and deal with them in a constructive manner. I believe that God is just as willing to heal us emotionally as He is spiritually. Sometimes it seems easier to neglect fully maturing and justifying our behavior because that's just the way I am.


A Change in the Concept of Worship

We face a challenge that is expressed in personalizing our thoughts about worship. Since we have determined it is about our feelings, we pick what suits my fancy and what will give me a sense of well-being. This, in my opinion, is an underdeveloped idea of worship. Paul states that true worship is learning to live in a state of 'self-sacrifice'.

If this becomes my approach to worship, I am worshipping twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. When I gather on Sunday morning, it is not worship Per Se but rather the public assembly of like minded people for public praise, prayer, and challenge/encouragement. If I am a 'living sacrifice' then I do not care what takes place during the public assembly because I have learned to worship in ALL circumstances.


Time Flys By

I wonder how many times today I preceded on a task because I wanted to and not because it would be God honoring and not necessarily productive. This comes to mind as I have had a difficult day focusing on tasks. (I have been able to stay busy and actually accomplish quite a bit.)

However, it is also one of those days when I have not concentrated on what God would have me be doing. When the night falls, will I have furthered the Kingdom of God by having lived today?


Mind Games

The mind is a wonderful thing as we can conjure incredible acts of kindness and encouragement. Paul challenges us to focus on those things which are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, and anything that is excellent or praiseworthy and to focus our thinking on these items. This requires constant attention for me as my mind is easily distracted by things which are counterproductive to the attributes on this list.

Paul also admonishes us to take every thought captive. For those thoughts which are counterproductive, take them captive. Refrain from letting them take up a home in your mind and never yield to the temptation to verbalize destructive or negative thoughts. As Paul writes, as well, let this mind be in you which was in Jesus Christ.