Asking God for Help to Help

group of people walking on the stairs

When you happen on someone who’s in trouble or needs help among your people with whom you live in this land that God, your God, is giving you, don’t look the other way pretending you don’t see him. Don’t keep a tight grip on your purse. No. Look at him, open your purse, lend whatever and as much as he needs. Don’t count the cost. Don’t listen to that selfish voice saying, “It’s almost the seventh year, the year of All-Debts-Are-Canceled,” and turn aside and leave your needy neighbor in the lurch, refusing to help him. He’ll call God’s attention to you and your blatant sin. (Deut. 15:7-9)

But…

“Why should I give money I worked for?”

“He is just lazy.”

“God helps those who help themselves.”

“Why does she have so many kids if she can’t afford them?”

“Not my responsibility.”

“I’m not giving money for drugs.”

“Beggars can’t be choosers.”

“I don’t have time.”

“What will my friends think?”

Yet…..

Scriptural passages about sacrifice don’t seem to address conditional contexts.

Perhaps our Creator knows us a bit too well.  God has a way of seeing into the human heart and speaking into it . The more our fingers clench around our “treasures of earth,” the more God attempts to unlock our grip.

That’s painful.

Giving up control always is.

But if we don’t we miss in the blessing. The peace. The amazement of watching God multiply loaves and fishes-enough to feed all of us. Abundantly.

Our fingers our an extension of the state of the heart. God desires to transform them. As we do our fingers gradually uncurl and have the capability of lying straight out as we flip our palms upward in a posture of surrender.

Are you willing?

 

 

 

 

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Who Knows? Perhaps You Have Come to This Place For Such a Time as This

12 When they told Mordecai what Esther had said, 13 Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” (Esther 4:12-14)

Her brain spun. Her heart raced as she reflected on the decision that lay waiting. How did she get here?

She was a young woman. An orphan. A jew. A niece. But, most importantly, God’s daughter; consecrated and ordained for divine purposes.

God thrust her into an unexpected place. 

She knew of the fate of her predecessor: Queen Vashti: Disposable due to her voice. Resistance results in death.

How did she get here?

God thrust her into an unexpected place.

The implications of her choices were not lost on Esther. Courage didn’t end well for Queen Vashti. It might not end well for her. Either way.

What does she have to lose? Her life-either way.

But bigger than that-being used to carry out God’s purposes. That’s big.

“I’ll go to the king, even though it’s forbidden. If I die, I die.”  Esther 4:16.

Courage thrust from inside. Liberation resulted outside.

Because Esther knew how she got there. And that determined her choice.

Ann Vos Kamp writes, “We could all be the ones outside the gate….The reason you are inside the gate for such a time as this-is to risk your life for those outside the gate.” (The Broken Way)

Where is God calling you to “such a time as this?”

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Living Like the Church in Acts 2: How Praise Defines Us

” All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds[j] to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home[k]and ate their food with glad and generous[l] hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” (Acts 2: 44-47)

No one ever said it would be easy.

Living in community is no piece of cake. We all have quirks, personality types, opinions, back stories, temptations….Why do we expect the church to be absent of conflict?

Anyone who has spent time in Christian community is aware of the situations that give root to arguments and it isn’t always over what would be expected.

“That’s not how we do it.”

“__________ministry (fill in the blank) is the most important”

“I only like _______________ music.”

“The money should be used for ___________________”

“______________talked too long”

“Will everyone eat that?”

So, if Christian community involves conflict, why would anyone want to join it?

They witnessed perseverance and praise.

The believers continued to meet together. Acknowledging disagreements. Acknowledging the  cultural, age and gender mix. Acknowledging varied maturity in understanding of discipleship.

Who does that?

People that acknowledge that relationship in community can only happen because of who infuses it.

Heaven intersects Earth.

That’s worthy of praise. And participation.

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Living Like the Church in Acts 2: What is Required of Us to Share?

People will take notice. 

All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds[j] to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home[k]and ate their food with glad and generous[l] hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. (Acts 2:44-46)

Even to a culture familiar with communal living, the early church appeared to turn the status quo upside down. Humanity thrives in a pecking order. It feeds our desire for power. It’s no surprise the disciples argued over who would sit at the right hand of Jesus. Sharing does not come naturally. In fact, it demands a cost to self: time, energy finances.

In our culture of independence and a “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps,” mentality, the early church lived radically. Questions begin to surface:

Did everyone contribute their fair share?

What about those who may have taken advantage of the community and then left?

Yet, scripture doesn’t bother with those nuances.  Something big took place. Something that witnessed to transformation. Something rooted outside of this earth.

People took notice.

Oh, I’m sure it wasn’t perfect. It couldn’t be because we aren’t.

But the Holy Spirit is bigger than our idiosyncrasies. We can be generous to each other because God is generous to us.

Does God call all of us to live like them? Community can appear in different forms.

Indeed there are communities around the world which resemble the one found in Acts 2. One of them, the JPUSA community (http://jpusa.org/) is one of my favorite groups with whom I engage.

What does it look like to live Acts 2 while we live scattered among our neighborhoods?

*watching someone’s children for free so they can have respite or work to get back on their feet

*lending use of your appliances to others whose appliances broke down

*starting a neighborhood “little pantry” (http://www.littlefreepantry.org/)

*spending time listening to someone with whom you don’t normally engage

*offering your skills and resources to help someone in need

Living counter culturally involves risk. But Jesus’ call to follow him does not hide that. The benefits outweigh the cons.

And people will take notice.

And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. (Acts 2:47)

*photocredit: Priscilla Du=Preez @unsplash.com

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Embracing the Potential God Sees in Us

Why is it so hard to see ourselves through God’s lens?

Jeremiah’s throat clenched as he heard God speak.

“Before I shaped you in the womb,
    I knew all about you.
Before you saw the light of day,
    I had holy plans for you:
A prophet to the nations—
    that’s what I had in mind for you.”

Expectations can be overwhelming. Especially when we feel like the bar is raised too high or the potential for failure seems likely.

Jeremiah responds,But I said, “Hold it, Master God! Look at me.
    I don’t know anything. I’m only a boy!”

God didn’t have to look at him. God formed him.

God told me, “Don’t say, ‘I’m only a boy.’
    I’ll tell you where to go and you’ll go there.
I’ll tell you what to say and you’ll say it.
    Don’t be afraid of a soul.
I’ll be right there, looking after you.”
    God’s Decree.”

.When God calls you, “onlys” don’t mean much.

“Stand at attention while I prepare you for your work.
    I’m making you as impregnable as a castle,
Immovable as a steel post,
    solid as a concrete block wall.
You’re a one-man defense system
    against this culture,
Against Judah’s kings and princes,
    against the priests and local leaders.
They’ll fight you, but they won’t
    even scratch you.
I’ll back you up every inch of the way.”
    God’s Decree.”

Jeremiah relented. It’s hard to make a case against the One who created you, knows your potential, and promises (decrees) you will be shaped to carry out your purpose.

How are you responding to God’s calling on your life?

*The scripture is from Jeremiah 1:1-18

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Recognizing “Mid-life” Means Life is Anything But Complete

“Mid age crisis”

The term used to go over my head. Until my mind wrestled with it a few months ago.

Suddenly, I found myself at a crossroads. The problem wasn’t that there were no beckoning paths. The wresting came as I tried to discern which one. There was no one to ask where I should go because no one else has walked my life. God’s purposes for someone else do not necessarily line up with God’s purposes for me.

For someone who finds comfort being in control, this place flooded me with fear.

How will I know which direction to go?

What’s my purpose?

Where is God leading me?

In the first half of my life. so much of my earthly identity was tied to “natural” progressions. Beginning a career, getting married, raising children, home schooling my daughter all seemed to flow easily out of God’s whispers in my spirit.

But this was different. The opportunity to embrace a new season seemed overwhelming.

So I prayed. And talked (sometimes ranted). And listened. I was reminded that the purposes infused into my being while I was knit together in the womb are still unfolding. There is no age cap on the way God’s story is woven through us.

Sarah was in her 90’s when she began becoming a matriarch of a nation.

Anna served as a prophetess and participated in the presentation of Jesus in the Temple.

Naomi accompanied her daughters-in-law as they proceeded to Moab and eventually sustained the life of her grandson. She became the great grandmother of King David.

God’s work in us never stops.

Our purposes are never complete.

I may not have all the answers I desire right now but I’m learning that’s O.K. Many others have come to their crossroads and have never been left there.

Only God knows what’s about to unfold.

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What the Woman in Mark 5 Teaches us About Pushing Through the Crowds

 

She broke free from the forces keeping her silent; the voices and affliction no longer restrained her.

 A woman who had suffered a condition of hemorrhaging for twelve years—a long succession of physicians had treated her, and treated her badly, taking all her money and leaving her worse off than before—had heard about Jesus.

What led her to think he was different?

For years, in her desperation, she sought liberation; freedom from a condition that was a constant reminder of the depravity of her existence. Unclean.

For years, in her desperation, she sought healing power from the touch of hands she trusted. But they betrayed her. Both body and soul.

But hope still stirred beneath the layers of shame clothing her. It flowed up and out through her hands.

She slipped in from behind and touched his robe. She was thinking to herself, “If I can put a finger on his robe, I can get well.” The moment she did it, the flow of blood dried up. She could feel the change and knew her plague was over and done with.

One person. She kept waiting for that one. And then encountered the One.

At the same moment, Jesus felt energy discharging from him. He turned around to the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”

It takes courage to recognize that your needs matter to Jesus. Especially when other voices drown out yours.

It takes courage to make yourself visible when it would be easier to hide.

 His disciples said, “What are you talking about? With this crowd pushing and jostling you, you’re asking, ‘Who touched me?’ Dozens have touched you!”

 But he went on asking, looking around to see who had done it. The woman, knowing what had happened, knowing she was the one, stepped up in fear and trembling, knelt before him, and gave him the whole story.

Unwavering faith compels us to summon up the ability to take risks. We listen to the inner voice speaking out of our Imago Dei that reminds us: “You matter.”

 Jesus said to her, “Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague.

He pronounced a benediction over her life. Loudly.  He announced that restoration is possible.  For anyone.

All it took was a touch. What are you waiting for?

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* This account is found in Mark 5:25-34. (The Message)