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.

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..." 

Thursday
May262011

LOSING  FAITH

 “What’s the opposite of faith?”

Our drama director, Lyn Sexton, posed the question, and we answered:  “Doubt”  “Faithlessness”  “Rebellion”   “Indifference”.

“No, the real answer is ‘certainty’.  Certainty destroys faith.”

I didn’t understand her comment and had to ponder. 

First insight:  “Faith” is a puzzling word because it has at least two meanings:  (1)  Trusting that Jesus is our Savior and LORD – the personal experience of receiving Jesus into our lives – being born again.  (2)  Within our relationships with Jesus, “faith” is also receiving a vision or understanding of what Jesus expects of us – and then acting on it.  The vision may be His plan for our lives.  Or, it could be whether to make a difficult phone call.  It’s what St. Paul calls “the gift of faith”.

Both kinds of faith are gifts – the greatest gifts.  The first is to build us up, the second is for building up His church.

But doubt isn’t the opposite of faith.  Doubt is as certain to follow faith as poop follows a puppy.

Ponder Matthew 28:17.  After the Resurrection, the disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go, and "when they saw Him, they worshipped Him, but some doubted."  Note that Jesus doesn't rebuke them.  Why?  What are they doubting?  Him?  Probably not.  Their own mission as His followers?  Yes.  That's why, in response, Jesus tells them their mission – and ours.  It's the Great Commission.

How does doubt fit into our lives?  Supposing Jesus calls you to a special ministry.  It can be a call to foreign missions.  Or, it can be a call to take care of your sick neighbor.  Or, a call to become a player for the LORD.  Once you have the call, you’ll have questions, such as:

   Was that call really from the LORD?

   I can’t do this.  How am I going to support my family?  What’ll we do for income?

   I don’t have the skills for this job.

   Nor do I have the talent.

   This is crazy.  I have a terrific education, and I’m throwing it all away.

   And the people I’m supposed to be helping aren’t even grateful.  Mostly, they’re hostile.

   Am I just kidding myself?

   I can’t do this.

I’m not making up these questions, these doubts.  I experienced them.  In 1970, I left a management job at GE to go into community work in Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati’s #1 poverty community.  At the same time, Margaret Heine and I were married.  We started marriage with no income, but we were excited about being in faith ministry among neighbors in Over-the-Rhine.  My parents had paid for my Harvard Law education.  Margaret had a Master of Arts in Sacred Theology from Concordia Seminary.  My parents thought Margaret and I were nuts.

Following the LORD’s leading, Margaret and I bought a house, raised a family, and the ministry grew into Sign of the Cross Housing – a Christian housing firm that developed and managed quality, affordable housing for low income neighbors.  But, with Sign of the Cross, my paycheck was often absent, partial or late.

In 21 years, Sign of the Cross Housing salvaged 208 apartments, which would otherwise have been uninhabitable, and we put 22 houses into resident ownership – a fifth of the home ownership in Over-the-Rhine in 1999.  With the LORD’s guidance, we were able to do all this without need for government funding.  Through Sign of the Cross Housing, we witnessed regularly and introduced many neighbors to Jesus.

During these 21 years, Margaret’s and my marriage flourished – through great difficulties.  Because she had grown up poor, voluntary poverty was harder for her than for me.  I could trust that the LORD would provide.  She, much less so.

She went home to Jesus in 1997.  Without her, my life is incomplete.. 

In retrospect, Over-the-Rhine was an excellent place to raise our three children.  They grew up bi-lingual, self-reliant, at ease with people of any race or income.  They attended fine public magnet schools.  Our two daughters were blessed by scholarships at excellent colleges.  They both married fine men, foreign-born, a Korean and a Minnesotan.  Both daughters are graphic artists and dedicated followers of Jesus.  Our son has also excelled.  He has three professions:   Managing a bar, poker and frisbee golf.

But, this couldn’t have happened if we had focused on certainties, rather than on Jesus’ vision for us.  What certainty?  “I can’t do it.”

If you believe, “I can’t do it,” it’s a true statement.  If you think you can’t, you won’t.

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I told you all that so I could share the following testimony. 

At the end of April, 2008, I visited a man I had known about for years.  He was a Lutheran pastor in Greenville, Ohio, who was captured by the LORD in mighty ways because the LORD baptized him in the Holy Spirit.  Through his ministry, miracles occurred – including healings and resurrections from death – and many people were brought into a living, personal relationship with Jesus.

But, as the Books of Exodus and Joshua show us, the experience of miracles does not assure that we will trust in God the next time we have a crisis.

The Greenville Pastor retired, and soon after he became afflicted with sciatica.  The pain increased until he was totally bedridden – except for the three times a day when he made a furtive dash for the bathroom, with the prayer that neither the preliminary phantom pain nor the terrible pain would strike before he returned to his bed.

Jim, an Elder from the congregation came to tell Pastor that he had a word from the LORD:  “God has told me that He is going to heal you.”  They prayed together.  Pastor thanked him.

A week later, the Elder returned with another word from the LORD:  “He wants you to go to the Charismatic Convention in Minneapolis.”  They prayed together.  Pastor thanked Jim, but commented that the LORD might as well send him to the moon as to Minneapolis.  Both were equally impossible.  Pastor’s sciatica continued as before.  He did not improve.

The third time Jim arrived, he told Pastor that the LORD had told him to drive Pastor and his wife to Minneapolis.  Pastor thanked him, but still declined.

A few days later, their wives were talking on the phone.  Pastor’s wife asked, “What do you plan to wear?”  Pastor had a nudge from the LORD and told his wife, Doris, “Tell them we’ll go.”

The trip was difficult.  Jim pulled the car right up to the men’s room door at gas stations, and Pastor made the dash inside.  Repeatedly, sciatica attacked him before he returned to the car.

In Minneapolis, Jim secured a wheelchair for Pastor.  Irwin Prange, a pastor from Queens, NY, conducted the first workshop they attended.  The two Pastors knew each other, and at the end of the workshop, Pastor Prange prayed for attendees with the laying on of hands.  He prayed for Pastor’s healing and deliverance from sciatica.  Nothing happened.  Pastor Prange put his hands on Pastor’s shoulders, and looking him in the eye, said, “Nothing’s going to change for you, Sam, until you get rid of that wheelchair.”

They kept the wheelchair.  They went to other workshops and plenary sessions at the Minneapolis conference.  Again and again, there were healing prayers for Pastor.  No change happened.  And the conference ended.

Pastor and his wife getting ready to leave, when Doris said, “There’s a Baskin & Robbins around the corner.  I’m going to get a chocolate cone.  Want one?”

Pastor said yes and then astonished Doris by adding, “I’ll go with you.”

You can’t,” she said, “there are steps.”

Pastor insisted, “I’m going.”  He stepped out of the wheelchair.  They left their room and the hotel.  At the top of the steps, Pastor felt the phantom pain coming.  He threw his arms straight up and shouted, “Thank you, Jesus, for healing me.”

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After telling me this testimony, Pastor leaned over, looked me in the eye and squeezed my knee.  “And you know, the sciatica hasn’t bothered me since.  It’s been twelve years.”

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Purpose of this blog is to compile a book for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.

Copyright © 2011 by Jack Towe

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