Rich Man, Poor Man

“The rich and poor have this in common: the Lord is the maker of them all.” (Proverbs 22.2)

What is the difference between King Solomon and the beggars gathering around the temple? Donald Trump and a migrant worker? From a worldly perspective, there is much difference. There is a chasm between the rich and the poor from a human perspective. But, both rich and poor are made in the image of God. If we believe this, the ways we live in the world are bound to change. To live in a world obsessed with wealth, with the belief that all are creatures of God, no matter what you have, is to challenge the way things are.

There is a church I know built in a city neighborhood that had once been full of upper-middle class homes. In time, there was urban flight and many church members moved to the suburbs They considered selling the building, but instead were led to redirect their mission and ministry and focus on the needs of this changing community. They set up a food bank, a clothing shelter. They offered programs for single parents. Developed 12-step groups. Folks from the neighborhood came to receive services, and stayed to serve others.

One day I overheard a member from another church commenting on the growth of this inner-c church. “Sure they’re growing,” she said, “but with the wrong kind of people.” I shared this with the pastor and he got a big smile on his face, “Well then, we must be doing something right.”

Praise: Past, Present, and Future

Read Psalm 13

… I trust in your unfailing love;

my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing the LORD’s praise,

for he has  been good to me.  (Psalm 13.5-6)

For over three years now, my son Caleb has been struggling with a rare, debilitating condition that has been found in only a few dozen children with Down Syndrome as they enter puberty. He has gone from being the life of the party to a social recluse. He has lost the ability to perform most every daily tasks (except eating… he still loves to eat. 🙂

Caleb has the medical professionals shaking their heads. Even the Johns Hopkins head of neurology for developmentally disabled persons can’t find suitable treatment beyond some pills that may help some, but not much.

Spiritually, Caleb is battling enemy attack. While it’s impossible to know how much he can process, it’s clear he is frustrated by his inability to express himself. As he wrestles with this hidden enemy, our own faith is tested.

In Psalm 13 and elsewhere, David prays to God not so much to destroyed the enemy, butto frustrate his plans and give us strength that we might endure, that we gain an infusion of life through the Holy Spirit so we can enjoy God and glorify him forever, no matter what our level of functioning.

Because David knows God’s saving love so deeply, he praises God even before his enemy is defeated. David has the faith to be strong in times of trial. He knows God is listen and will rescue us from the grip of our enemies, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

I thank God for Caleb’s affection, for the way he has brightened my life and the lives of many others. I thank God that Caleb still has a sense of prayer, a connection to God. And I thank God for the promise that Caleb will continue to grow in grace, no matter what lies ahead.

 

 

Choosing Life

But because the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king’s orders. They allowed the boys to live, too.   (Exodus 1.17)
Moses owes his life to women who respond to God’s call to choose life in a culture of death.
 
Some time ago, I came to know a woman named Maggie. When she was 16, Maggie was forcibly coerced into having sex. She became pregnant. When she told the father he said, “It’s not my problem. You take care of it.”
 
Maggie say no good option. She knew she could not raise a child herself. She worried that placing her child in an adoptive family would bring her emotional anguish. She choose to have an abortion.
 
This did not take care of her “problem.” She became haunted by regret, particularly when she saw mothers with infant babies in their arms.
 
The good news is Maggie did not wallow in her shame. She was moved to share her story with young women facing the life and death decision of birth vs. abortion. She served in her church nursery. In time, she became a foster parent and would later adopt four children who would otherwise have been aborted.
 
I thank God for women like Maggie who come to recognize the preciousness of children and choose life over death.

God’s Chosen

 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2.9)
Before our big basketball tournament, my coach said this prayer:
Oh Lord, we know this game has already been decided. We just pray for the strength to accept the outcome. In your Sovereign name we pray. Amen.
Sure enough, we lost that game. I refuse to believe God set us up to lose. How could God have determined our defeat? Why would God even bother to mess with a high school basketball game when there are so many other unresolved issues: war, poverty, racism…
God is in control of all things. But God doesn’t exert this authority over every detail of our lives. We are not puppets God plays with on a string.
Yet, in Jesus, God has set the course for our lives — past, present, and future. In Christ, God freely chooses His children for abundant life, forever.
Being God’s chosen ones doesn’t come with special privileges, but responsibilities. We are not chosen because of who we are, but Whose we are. We are children of a Heavenly Father who does not call us to a lap of luxury, but gives us the tools to serve.

Promises, Promises

… he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1.6)

Mark Twain is known to have said, “I have no problem giving up tobacco. I’ve done it hundreds of times.”

I have started so many things with the best of intentions, only to watch them dissipate like suds on soda. This troubles me. Not for my own sake, but for the sake of my relationships. Too many times, I have sparked the hopes of my children with fun family plans only to dash them in exchange for work projects or other personal commitments. One thing I have come to find consistent in my life is my lack of consistency.

God isn’t this way. We can depend on God. Always. For everything. All that is needed for abundant life now and forever. With faith in Christ, we can count on God’s blessings even more than we count on the sun rise in the east and set in the west.

In Christ, God keeps His promises. For good.

Prayer for Assurance

Father God,  at times I can’t find you even though I look in what I’ve come to know as all the right places. I pray and hear no response. I read your Word and fail to understand. I worship and I’m not inspired. I sing praises, but my heart if not uplifted.

Breathe new life into my spirit, living Lord. Relieve the cares of the world I carry. Purify me with the cleansing flame of your Spirit. Guide me with the light of your truth. Embrace me in your loving arms. Assure me that I am your own, no matter how I feel.