What are these experiences I speak of. Great conversations, great people, good times with God, preparing a sermon that I’m passionate about. (The disciples call to follow Christ.) On Wed I went out to breakfast with some of the other pastors here, great conversations. Today I spent three hours with a guy that is in the process of giving his life to Christ. While that was happening, several cars were being fixed with free labor at the NL. This evening I was able to preach, room for improvement, but it went well. Yah, God is good! Having said this, I’m pretty sure that any number of my good friends that are pastors would say, “enjoy it while it lasts”. But they would add that even when it’s hard, very hard, when your where God wants you to be there is no better place.
Let me mention how I got to this place (the NL) emotionally. I have really gone back and forth on this sense of calling, when it comes to being a pastor. I really believe that being a pastor is not in any way some kind of a pinnacle of Christian maturity. I am a big fan of what some have called “market place ministry” or what I would call, “living missionally”. Ask yourself for instance, “what would the world be like if no one did what I do?” And then seek to do this very important thing that you do to the glory of God, and not just by giving some of the proceeds, (tithing) but by conducting your affairs in an ethical manner, both in the big picture, and in the details. But anyway, I’m preaching now, so I’ll shut up. Suffice it to say that given how passionate I am about people serving God through their vocation, I really have questions about sequestering myself in the comfort of a parish. (how about if pastors not do that) All of that said, for various reasons, I know I am called to be a pastor, and that here is where I am supposed to be. Being in this place emotionally, is great. Getting here has been very difficult. It is accurate to say, “I don’t want to be a pastor, I have to be one.” And that is probably the way it should be.
Let me add one other thing. The fact that people are giving money directly to this ministry and to me frankly, that really grounds me. I suppose I should simply not want to let God down, or the people I am serving. But the fact is I’m really great full for the people that have been called to stand behind me financially, and I don’t want to let them down. They are making a sacrifice on my behalf, and that is not something I take lightly.
Reading over what I have just written, it all sounds somewhat cliché. Like this is what I’m supposed to write. I don’t like that, but for now, things are the way they are, and for that I thank God. (yet another cliche)
Before moving to La Crosse I interviewed twice for a pastoral church plant position in Des Moines. They decided I would not be best for the position, but highly recommended me to the guys here in Lincoln. Sam Keyser, one of the pastors at the Northern Lighthouse, (NL) gave me a call and we started talking.
So a little about the church. The NL is a church where hurting and broken people, including people currently incarcerated, find hope through Jesus Christ. (usually) The church is part of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) denomination, (which is thoroughly Evangelical). However if you know anything about the CRC, this is a pretty atypical congregation, as it is a semi-recent church plant with its own distinctives. For one thing, it is thoroughly blue-collar, with many of the people in attendance bused in from a local minimum security correctional facility. It is located outside of Lincoln, Nebraska, on a five acre plot that serves as a respite from the rigors and temptations of the city. The church’s ministries include a re-integration program for people in prison through which they are taught life skills, a charity auto program dedicated to helping people with basic transportation, and multiple life-groups through which people connect with one-another and Jesus Christ, while studying God’s word. Worship services occur twice a week on Saturday and Sunday with about 180 in attendance all told.
What is it like to attend The NL? Ask yourself this, did anyone in the front row of your church this morning pass out fast food breakfast to all their friends in the front row... in the middle of the service? Did it make for "bad church"?...sure. But more importantly, people that don't know all the "rules" for church that we all have somehow inherited have a place where they can go and just be themselves. Does chowing down on a sausage biscuit (smack smack), cross the line?...sure, but there are so many other things that are way more important. Like, would the inmate that made that mistake be comfortable enough in your church to make the mistake, and if he did, would he ever come back? (I have been in more typical churches that are great and the answer is yes.)
So what will my responsibilities be? I’ll simply be an associate pastor. The leadership structure here is pretty flat, so I’ll have a lot of latitude to get involved where the needs are as I see fit. Initially, I’ll be teaching some classes, taking care of some administrative functions, leading a small group, and preaching once or twice a month. But more importantly, it's about the relationships, just hanging out together and doing life.
What I want to do in this post is simply post some of the biblical texts dealing with poverty. This is not an exhaustive list, just some selected texts. What is better is to do a word study on "poor" and other similar words. One way to get started is by clicking here. Where you will see the word "poor" appears in the Bible a mere 173 times, and that doesn't include other similar words like, poverty, justice, and rich.
Exo 23 2 "Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, 3 and do not show favoritism to a poor man in his lawsuit. 6 "Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. 7 Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty. 8 "Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous.9 "Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in
Lev 23:22 When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.
Lev 25:35 If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you.
Deu 15:7 If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother.
1 Sam 2:8 He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.
Ps 82:3 Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.
Prov 10:4 Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.
Prov 13:7,8 One man pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth. A man's riches may ransom his life, but a poor man hears no threat.
Prov 17:5 He who mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.
Prov 19:17 He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.
Prov 21:13,17 If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered. He who loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and oil will never be rich.
1 Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,
2 to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
and robbing the fatherless.
3 What will you do on the day of reckoning,
when disaster comes from afar?
To whom will you run for help?
Where will you leave your riches?
Isa 41:17 The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
Mat 19:21 Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
Mark 12 41Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins,[j]worth only a fraction of a penny.[k] 43Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on."(Why did Jesus come to earth?)
Luke 4 16He went to
18"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
19to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."[e]
20Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."Luke 14:21 "The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.
1 Cor 13:3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, [ Some early manuscripts body that I may boast] but have not love, I gain nothing.
2 Cor 6:10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
2 Cor 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.James 2 14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
Rev 3:17 You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
So a lot of time has gone by. Why have I not been blogging? Good question. Maybee you can tell me. Why do bloggers stop blogging? I did it on average several times a week while I was in school, and after the birth of my son, about once every two to three weeks, some times more. So why did I just stop? It wasen’t that I didn’t think about things that could be blogged, it was just that I had no desire to take the time and effort to put my thoughts into writing.