Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

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God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 

Monday
Jul142014

BLESSED ARE THE FEASTMAKERS

“Silence is golden . . . except when it’s yellow.”

“Blessed are the feastmakers.”

Those were just two of the wise, fun sayings that spiced our time together in the Housing Ministry Group. Back in the '80s, at least five friends met for an evening each week for three and a half years for prayer, Scriptural reflections, mutual support, and housing planning.

We were the planning group for Sign of the Cross Housing, a firm that developed quality, affordable housing for lower income neighbors in Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati’s #1 poverty community. By 1982, we had put together 20 units of good housing at a cost of only a quarter of a million dollars--without need for government funding. 

[Does a quarter of a million sound like a lot of money? That’s only $12,500 per home or apartment. By the 1990's, Sign of the Cross Housing owned or managed 124 units, valued at perhaps $1,400,000. All this time, we never had as much as three month's operating funds in the bank. Often we lacked funds to meet payroll.  Yet, the LORD pulled us through.]

In the Housing Ministry Group, quotable sayings were our best byproduct.

Helen Francis, assistant director for the Free Store, and Jane Jansak, parish worker for Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, were the group’s chief cooks. They mixed savvy sayings with the dough of financial data, construction concepts and applicant evaluations. We made no pretence of originality, and we took ideas wherever we found them.  Here are the ones that helped me most:

“Don’t wait for the big blocks of time. There are none. Use the little blocks of time.”

“The LORD rewards trust by providing power.”

Helen Francis, on the Christmas rush: “Do it in joy and love. If preparations make me feel grouchy, I don’t do them.”

“A saint is a person through whom God’s light can shine.”

“Mark Twain’s secret of success:  ‘I was born excited.’”

“Sometimes duty is the cement that holds us together. Often there’s a gift in it.”

On marriage: “You both have to mow the median strip. But, if you turn your back, what you thought was grass has become trees, and your lawnmower won’t work.”

“I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know Who holds the future.”

“If you help others out of your own need or guilt, you’ll be paternalistic.  If you help from caring for the other person, then you’ll be real, and you can in love say no.  Also, you will receive and learn.”

“Instead of growing up, most of us are groaning up.”

And two from St. Augustine, bishop of Hippo:

          “Love God and do what you want.”   [Watch it.  That one’s very tricky.]

          “Dubito, ergo sum.”  “I doubt, therefore I am.”

                    [While Augustine didn’t say it in these Decartes-like words, he came close.]

The oven for baking these comments was our housing ministry. We prayed over resident selections. We prayed over purchase and development decisions. We prayed about residents meeting the LORD and growing in His grace. We saw the LORD working powerfully through some residents. We grieved that others continued to reject Him.

Yet, in the midst of the struggle of building an undercapitalized housing firm while aiding others to grow in Jesus, we saw the LORD as our source of help. And He helped us--but often not where we expected.  For example, we wanted to buy a large apartment building, but the funding fell through. Later, we discovered that the heating bill would have bankrupted us. All that was part of His training program.

As we continued to seek His will, as we continued to praise and give thanks in all circumstances, we saw Him act--with people, funds, problem solving and new opportunities. Again and again, He pulled us out of insolvency, and funds came from sources we didn’t even know.

Other observations which resulted were:

“Making judgments usually comes to this: There’s a great deal of difference between a little bit and a lot.”

“The call to wealth is a dangerous call, like walking on the lip of hell. It takes a strong Christian to survive. Live simply so that others simply may live.”

“When I have invested a lot in an organization, if I am truly called to leave, the LORD never leaves carnage.”

“The mark of answered prayer: God’s answer is always good news for everyone concerned.”

“When the LORD calls you, His grace will also meet your needs--if you are faithful to the call.”

“If we really know what we want to do, money is seldom the major problem.”

“Wondering is part of prayer: ‘LORD, how does this fit?’”

“When bad things happen, I’m only free to deal with them when I’m thankful for them.” [See Ephesians 5:20 and I Thessalonians 5:18]

 “You matter.  I matter.  Everyone matters. That’s the hardest part of Christianity to believe.” [G. K. Chesterton]

 “Fatigue is a sign that you need solitude.”

"In Israel, to be a realist, you have to believe in miracles." [Ben Gurion]

          Also true in Over-the-Rhine

 “When you have disappointing relationships, don’t be too hard on yourself.”

“One sign of maturity is being able to live in paradox.”

“We’re to be fishers of people. The LORD does the cleaning.”

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Purpose of this blog is to compile several books for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.

Copyright  ©  2014 by Jack Towe

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