Our Power is the Good News that Jesus Christ Brings
Jesus knew that to put sin and Satan to death, He would have to die Himself. The greatest act of love happened over a period of 33 years, culminating in His death, with His success proven by His resurrection. That act of love cost Jesus everything and, in giving everything, He bought the right to cancel sin, death and give new life. Jesus Christ gives justification, forgiveness, and a new life to all who have saving faith in Him. Jesus bought the right to restore the planet to its rightful purpose: To glorify God and enjoy Him forever!
Why So Much Evil?
"We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." The Bible
Humanity lives in a schizophrenia of trying to love itself, and at the same time doing incredibly cruel, evil things to the most vulnerable. The root sin of all of this is rebellion against God. Humanity will serve any master, as long as it isn't God.
The human race does vile things to itself: aborts its babies, commits sexual immorality, manipulates people with religions, abuses, and enslaves or exploits the vulnerable. The whole planet is groaning in the pain that we inflict on ourselves. The root of it all is a refusal to submit to God as our rightful Authority.
Fight Back the Darkness
"For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." The Bible
Our battle is a battle against spiritual forces which wish to hold every human in bondage and darkness. As we bring the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ into the darkness, the evil spirits respond in battle. With our weapons, God both pushes back the spiritual powers and He brings new life to humans planet-wide.
Our main weapons are: Truth, Prayer, Love, and Humility. With these weapons we resist Satanic forces, expose their lies, and bring bondage-breaking salvation to sinners.
Since we live on a battlefield, we sustain deep scars. Evil has no conscience and does not fight with sportsmanship. Evil attacks from within and without. It attacks from the outside through manipulation, temptations, and distractions.It tries to get in through relationships, selfish ambitions, pride, thought patterns, dreams, and burn-out. It uses our sinful natures to attack us emotional and spiritually. That is why we depend on the arm of God to bring love, truth, and justice. With God as our strength and protector and with His word as our thought corrector, we wield the sword of Light!
New Cracks Spread
Through the constant battles, we pick up new cracks in our clay vessels. We could have avoided those cracks by not entering the battle. But, in a strange, humble way, those cracks seem to leak more love, humility and gospel light out, thus spilling more hope into this dark world.
"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. " The Bible
Victorious Against the Darkness
We live victorious lives because each time the Holy Spirit lights up another clay pot near us, we gain a brother or sister who will enjoy an eternity of glorifying God and enjoying Him. Jesus has chosen to extend His Kingdom one soul at a time, rescuing each of us from the clutches of the kingdom of darkness. We engage the battle on this groaning planet as the Kingdom of Light spreads to the darkest corners of humanity. This conquest against evil will culminate in the return of Christ! At that time, the universe will be folded up like a used-up jacket and burned. Jesus will create a new universe, one inhabited by all citizens of the Kingdom of Light. There will be no groaning, no rebellion, no slavery, no selfishness, no humanism, no sin or darkness there... Only billions of people living out their purpose in perfection: To glorify God in their lives, talents, and relationships and to enjoy Him forever!
Please Pray for Us
My sister, Sharie, was reading through When Helping Hurts for the 2nd time when I visited her at Christmas. So, I did what every younger brother would do: I immediately ordered the book on Amazon. Can you imagine becoming a missionary and then hurting people?
The goal of helping people in poverty is always the same, regardless of location or culture: To glorify God in their lives, families, communities, and work.
That is the guiding light for all work with people living in poverty. Is what I'm doing putting him/her on a trajectory to reflect the light of Jesus Christ?
Empowering vs. Enabling
Broken community systems, fractured family values, distorted worldviews and twisted religions synthesize with personal sin to break and bankrupt individuals. These individuals are strong but start to feel worthless and fatalism grips their lives. The question is how to help rise individuals and communities from spiritual bankruptcy. The simple answer is empower, don't further enable. The power of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that He gives a new identity, a spiritual life reborn to reflect God's glory, and the strength to live that life. Since the goal is for Christ-followers to glorify God with their lives, work, and talents, the answer is to partner with God in that process.
Although evangelism is a valuable piece, slow and steady discipleship is needed for personal and generational change. Without a heart change, a Biblical worldview, and a lifestyle change, the culture of brokenness will continue to destroy.
Many of us approach people in poverty with money, food, and building materials. In emergency situations, these are empowering. In long-term poverty situations, these can be enabling. There are several reasons for this: 1. The giver becomes a patron and paternalism ensues. 2. The receiver's feelings of worthless, inadequacy are reinforced. 3. The local community is disempowered. 4. A wet wipe is being used to clean a wound that is gangrene.
This is because relief is not needed by many people in poverty. Instead, they need rehabilitation or development. In this case rehabilitation means to get back to the level they were at before the tragedy struck. Development means to take a person or community to the next step.
When Helping Hurts has advice for how to give relief and how to rehabilitate and develop people in poverty and communities. Read the book for those ideas. My take-away from this book is:
1. Mulit-generational change takes a slow and steady approach of building relationships.
2. The answer is life-on-life discipleship and Biblical education that impacts daily life choices.
3. Without repenting of our sins, we'll continue to be broken and paternalism results. We all only have one Patron: Jesus Christ.
4. Empower and equip those we came to serve. In essence work ourselves out of a mission. They must replace us.
5. Local communities must make investment in all development projects, either financial or sweat equity.
6. This is impossible without the strength, vision, and support of Jesus Christ and his world-wide body of followers.
How much of your internal identity is created through your relationship to your dad and mom? Inside, we all crave a strong, doting dad and loving, caring mom. God has created us to grow up in a nurturing family. When one of those pieces is missing, absent, or broken, children can grow up in dysfunction. Can kids grow up in challenging situations and thrive? Yes, but I don't think that is the usual.
God created the family to disciple and grow children into healthy adults who love God and love others. The primary job that God gives parents is to teach their children God's commandments and how to apply those in their daily lives.
Training a child to understand the world through God's eyes and apply God's truths to each life situation is a full time responsibility. When one piece is missing, the child suffers. When Dad isn't providing and leading, the child suffers. When Mom isn't nurturing and teaching, the child suffers. There is a constant tension because parents are sinners who struggle to live Biblically.
In the picture above, I'm reading to children, some of whom do not have parents in their lives to train and nurture them. Their parents have made the choices to leave them to aunts, cousins, and grandma to raise, and they have physically left to find work in far away places. Many do this so their kids can eat consistent meals and go to good schools, hopefully to escape the poverty cycle. What happens to many children is that they grow up with fractured identities and feel disconnected. They grow up in need of parents who teach them God's ways and impart a healthy identity. They grow up in need of fathers who lead them and mothers who nurture them.
Parenting priorities... In the above graphic, I'm trying to illustrate a Biblical approach to making parenting decisions. Of course, providing for our families is as important as teaching them spiritually, partly because it is in our providing that we model Christ's provision. But, when we replace #2 with #3, that is when the kids will start to suffer.
"I pray to God every day and nothing happens." Al told me on Tuesday morning. He had just described to me how his family is destitute on another island and he hadn't sent money home for over a month. One of his wives wanted a divorce and another had left the children at a sister-in-law's house and not returned. I listened to his story and heard the hopelessness, as I sat on the sand talking with this beach vendor. What could I say? I said, "Jesus is the only One that I know who can help you. Jesus is the only one who can handle a problem that big."
The truth is that all seven billion humans on this planet are impoverished and spiritually broken. It's easy for those who have financial resources to feel strong and secure. The truth is that all of us are born into spiritual poverty and need the hope of Jesus Christ. We all need Jesus Christ as our mediator, to remove our sins and mediate our prayers to God the Father.
Physical poverty exposes the truth of spiritual poverty. When you look into the eyes of a woman who chooses prostitution to put food on the table. Or, see the hopelessness in the face of a young boy who is shaking a water bottle on your windshield to try to clean it for a few pesos. When you sit with a broken husband who can't provide for his family. Poverty separates mothers from their children. Poverty sends husbands away from their homes in search of a meager income. Poverty breaks children and adults alike. Why? Because all humans are designed to use their lives, talents, skills, and relationships to glorify God. Broken, impoverished people can't glorify God with their lives and work, whether physically rich or poor. That is the message of the gospel.
Glad tidings of Hope: Jesus Christ came to earth and perfectly glorified God in every aspect of His life. He purchased the right to replace death with life, spiritual poverty with spiritual wealth, and brokenness with healing. Jesus Christ purchased the right to forgive Al for his sins. With His life, Jesus purchased the right to mediate Al's prayers so that God will hear and answer his prayers. Jesus Christ purchased the right to credit to Al's account His own perfect record of glorifying God in His life, work, and relationships. Jesus Christ purchased the right to begin healing Al inside, so that Al can begin to live a life that reflects the characteristics of His Creator: Love, Joy, Justice, Peace, Faithfulness. That's the hope of the gospel. "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Jesus Christ.
"The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them." Isaiah 9:2
Evangelism and discipleship are the answer. It is through evangelism that Al can hear the good news. It is through discipleship that Al can learn how to build a life that brings glory to God in his family, life, and work.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely Iam with you always, to the very end of the age.”