Three steps to overcome poverty

Three steps to overcome poverty: relief, rehabilitation and development

What issues are important to you this election year? One of the complaints I hear all the time is that the rich get richer while the rest of us get left out. To help me think through wealth, poverty and what we can possibly do, I have been reading When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. Their focus in this book is doing the best for people who are facing need without doing them (or ourselves) harm.

At the risk of oversimplification, they break down the process for helping someone in need to three steps: relief, rehabilitation and development. Relief is what we do to help people when a crisis has brought them to a desperate place in life. Relief is usually meeting a physical need to stop the bleeding. Once their life is stabilized, rehabilitation begins. The authors describe this part of the process as working alongside the person in need to help them back to where they were before they began their descent. Once they are back where they started, it’s time to begin working on development. Development deals with reconciliation – being made right with God, themselves, others and the rest of creation. This step is where we all become part of the process because it demonstrates that each of us live in some kind of poverty. In a fallen world we all struggle in these areas of our lives. We all struggle to relate rightly with our creator. Our God created us, loves us and sent his Son to receive the punishment for our sin. It seems like as soon as we are reminded of God’s free gift of grace, we decide to rebel against that grace and either  condemn ourselves or begin to judge someone else. We struggle with our own identity. Most of us are so busy trying to impress other people that we can’t just be who we are. We have a hard time relating to other people because they have something we want. And, we struggle relating to the rest of creation because it seems to fight us at every turn. I once had a teacher describe it this way:

We were created by God to love God as our Father, love one another as brothers and rule over the earth. When sin entered the picture, we rebelled against God and lost our dominion over the earth. In our struggle to recover what was lost, we started running from our Heavenly Father and rule over other people because we no longer ruled over the earth.

When we understand development this way, it becomes a lifelong task for all of us. I want to challenge you to think about your development this week. Maybe it has financial ramifications  for you and your family. Maybe it doesn’t. Either way each of us has a long way to go. What relationship do you need to spend some time and energy reconciling this week? What’s your first step that direction?

 

 

Remember God’s Love

Remember God’s Love Today

God's Love

Happy Valentine’s Day. Yeah, this is that day we all love and hate. It’s a special day, but it’s also a day we measure love in all kinds of crazy ways: Did you get flowers? Did you get the right box of candy? Where did you get dinner reservations? Don’t get me wrong. It’s important to tell the important person in your life you care about them – even if that’s not a romantic relationship. Today is a great opportunity. It’s also a great opportunity to remember that’s something each of us needs to do every day. That said, I also want you to take a few minutes today to remember God’s love today. Isn’t that where all the rest of love comes from, anyway? (Take a look at 1 John 4:7.)

Take a few minutes today to read this article about God’s love. Reflect on how his love is the source for the way you love the most important people in your life. Then, take some time today to put that God-initiated love into practice:

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/remembering-the-unquantifiable-love-of-god

Have a great Valentine’s Day!

Share a Super Day with Us this Sunday!

A Super Day to Share this Sunday, February 7th

This Sunday is a big day in our nation as people all over the country get together to watch Super Bowl 50. It says a lot about a sporting event that most of us who don’t have a rooting interest in either team will still gather to celebrate. I have to give a lot of credit to the NFL for creating a product we all love so much. Probably only Thanksgiving, Christmas and (maybe) New Year’s Eve are bigger get-together events in our culture. I think as believers this is a good opportunity for us to think about the value of these kinds of cultural events for Christ’s kingdom.

Fun!

First, it’s good to have fun together. All the time we spend together reading the Bible, praying and serving is great, but sometimes you just need to hang out, relax and laugh at Super Bowl commercials together. Seriously, you fuddy-duddies out there, lighten up.

Encouragement

There’s no better encouragement than when we get together to be spiritual. Sometimes, though, when we’re just hanging out things come up that might not come up in a more intentional context. Sometimes it’s also easier to address challenges in the context of laughter than when the room is serious and quiet. No, we can’t expect to grow in Christ if we spend all our time partying, but occasionally we all need to let our hair down.

New Friends

Where do we make new friends? Often in new places doing different things. When we get together for a sporting event or some other celebration, it usually involves people outside our normal circles of influence. That might be the very thing that gives you the chance to meet your next best friend.

New Fruit

In John 4 Jesus told his followers that they needed to look up and see the harvest was already ripe. Sometimes we are so busy with life that we don’t notice God’s work in the lives of people around us. Different social events can give us a different perspective on the lives of people around us. They give us the chance to look up from our busy-ness to interact with people in different ways. We may see God’s work in the life of someone we’ve never seen it before.

So, you and your family are invited to spend some time with us this Sunday. We will be playing flag football at 1:00 pm. Everyone is welcome to play. Then, we will be watching the Big Game at our pastor’s house. Send us a note if you would like more info about any of our activities: info@crossroadsfortworth.org

GOD on POLITICS

 Voting: Privilege? Responsibility? Opportunity? Voice?

God on Politics – God’s heart and your voice in our nation

Are you ever overwhelmed by the world of politics? Do you get tired head when you try to figure out how (or if) your vote really counts? Or do you feel like everyone in washington makes decisions for their power and their pocketbook, so why does it really matter who is in office?

As a GenXer all these thoughts have crossed my mind. And, to be honest, I have probably missed out on opportunities to express myself in our political process because it all just seems so hopeless. Pretty sad for a pastor, right? Ten years ago John Mayer expressed our GenX hearts pretty well when he wrote:

Now we see everything that’s going wrong with the world and those who lead it.
We just feel like we don’t have the means to rise above and beat it,
So we keep waiting, waiting on the world to change.
(If you haven’t heard it, it’s a pretty interesting tune.)

I think though, GenXers, it’s time for us to step up to the plate. As a new generation younger than us enters the workforce and adulthood (Did you know we will be outnumbered 2 to 1 by Millennials in the workforce soon?), it’s time for us to begin leaving our mark – especially those of us following Christ. So, what would Christ have us do?

With thanks to those who have come before us – from our founders to our defenders to the generations of Americans who have shaped our nation for the past two hundred years – we have a very special opportunity. We are free to pray, worship, organize, gather and vote according to our conscience. Beginning next Sunday, February 7th, we will be talking about how God expects us to put these liberties into practice to impact our nation and the ends of the earth with the message of Christ’s love.

 

Living Like Champions

Living Like Champions

This afternoon four teams will play in the NFL Conference Championship games. Each team is made up of fifty-three players who have spent every day since the end of July preparing for today. There have been countless hours of training on the track, in the weightroom and on the practice field as well as a dizzying amount of time learning their team’s strategy and the strengths and weaknesses of opponents. All of it has led to today. The really good news is that all 200+ of these players are winners. They have won in the regular season, and in the postseason they have defeated their biggest rivals. The bad news is that when they get up in the morning half of them will be losers, too. There are no participation trophies in the NFL, so they are all going to go out to day and lay everything they can on the line. Why? Because if they can win one more game, they will have that experience every one of them has dreamed about since the first time they picked up a football: walking out onto the field to play in the Super Bowl – and maybe even holding the Lombardi Trophy over their heads with their teammates.

One of my favorite things about sports is how athletes’ stories and struggles can inspire us to make more of our lives. This past Thursday night I got to be part of a new small group. This one happens to be full of young men. I happened to be the oldest (which seems to happen a lot more often these days). We spent some time reading and discussing Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3. We also got to talk about where we are in life and how we would like to see faith impact us. In the words of these men I heard the same thing I hear from interviews with great athletes. As each man spoke, I heard him say these three things: Life has been tough. I’m grateful for where I am. Now, with God’s help I want to be a better man. This is the heart that, when we share it together, will turn us into people who live like champions. And as we serve Christ together, this kind of heart just might change the world.

This morning I’m going to continue to share our strategy to touch lives outside of CrossRoads with our small groups. Next week we will spend Sunday morning experiencing our small groups together during our regular worship time. While I can’t promise you the kind of experience I shared with these guys Thursday night, you will get a little taste of what it’s like to share life in one of our small groups. I pray that in one of our small groups you might find a place where you can be part of living like a champion.

Church Faster

Church, Only Faster

This month we have been taking a look at what exactly church is all about. We are at a place in the life of our church that we have to ask some hard questions. The problem I keep running into is that the Bible doesn’t give us lots of guidance. Some people would tell us that when the Bible doesn’t tell us which way to go, we should look at church history for answers. Some people say that when the Bible doesn’t speak directly, we have freedom. I would agree that we have freedom. (How many times does the New Testament tell us we are free in Christ?) But, also think we have a lot to learn from our history.

Tonight our church is beginning a class called Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. (Click here for more info on the class we will be attending. You’re welcome to come with us if you live in our area.) This is a class about how God has worked and is currently working around the world. After Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension the Holy Spirit showed up, and the church begins in earnest in Jerusalem. At the end of Acts 2 Luke tells us that the believers were getting together as often as daily. They were meeting in their homes and the Temple sharing everything and devoting themselves to the Apostles’ teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers. Then, the church began to face persecution that drove many believers out of Jerusalem. As believers spread across Palestine, Turkey, Greece and into Europe, many people trusted in Christ who did not have a Jewish background. Paul’s letters to believers in Europe seem to indicate that he was OK with a lot of freedom in how they worshipped. Following the close of Acts church began to develop traditions that helped explain faith to worshipers. These traditions always centered on communion and traditions handed down from the generations before them.

Over the centuries the church has continued to grow move across the world. When the church came to North America, many believers fled church traditions that had become oppressive and expressed their faith in new ways. They still involved weekly meetings built around communion, the Bible and often extra-biblical prayers and hymns. Because the communities were born out of a desire to worship, the church depended on people coming through its doors to spread the gospel. As the church grew and strengthened in North America, churches began to send missionaries to the other side of the world. In strange places most missionaries needed a safe place to learn the culture and meet needs to share Christ’s love. Unfortunately, this strategy created a cultural barrier between the mainstream culture and the missionaries.

Over the past couple decades missionaries have worked to develop new strategies that give them closer relationships with the people among whom they are working to make disciples. Instead of building a compound, believers have learned to become part of the broader culture, pray and listen for spiritual questions from the people around them. Out of this strategy the gospel has begun to move quickly in cultures where it had not previously been heard. Instead of asking people to come to a building to hear the gospel, missionaries began going into homes of people who expressed interest in knowing Christ. As they entered homes, whole households began to trust in Jesus. Because they removed the compound walls and went to the people, not just churches were born but movements have begun to take place among new people groups around the world.

Over the past decade here in the States we have watched a cultural barrier built between the American church and people who are not believers. While many churches try to overcome this barrier by becoming more culturally sensitive, we have begun a new strategy to touch the lives of the people around us. Instead of asking people to come, we are learning lessons from Christ’s workers on the other side of the world. As we pray, we are training people from our church to be missionaries taking the gospel to the homes of people around us God is causing to ask spiritual questions. As we sit down with them, read the Bible and talk about following Jesus, we have found that people averse to “going to church” are excited to find real answers to their spiritual questions. And, they are often pleasantly surprised to find them in the Bible.

Are you praying for the people around you? Are people in your life asking spiritual questions? Are you listening? Our prayer is that in this new year God would continue to bring new families to follow Christ starting in their living rooms simply answering spiritual questions and teaching them what it means to follow Jesus. We are looking forward to a movement of God that brings church to households faster than we could ever dream of bringing them to church. Are you ready to be part of the movement?