Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Where Do We Put Our Trust?

Yesterday, I was privileged to be on a conference call with several hundred people from across the US. Baptist Global Response (BGR), as a faith-based international relief and development organization, was invited to interact with some political analysts as they talked about potential impacts on foreign aid programs due to the recent US government shutdown. The good news is that in the short run, food will still get to refugees in Syria, help with go to famine areas in North Africa and immunization programs will still go on for children overseas. The bad news is that if the stalemate continues for a month or more, many of these US government programs that benefit the world's poorest will start to shut down and more and more burden of caring for the hungry and poor will fall on the shoulders of non-government organizations such as BGR.

I won't debate here the pros or cons of cutting international aid versus programs at home. Anyway, at full force, our international development programs constitute no more than 1% of the annual US budget. What I will comment on is that if things continue and the cuts come to US government assistance for the world's most vulnerable, it will present interesting days for organizations like the one I work for.

However, I am not worried. With great problems comes great opportunities. I do have anticipated grief for the 1.0 Billion chronically hungry people around the world. And I do wonder what will happen to the 40 million refugees/internally displaces persons if aid is cut. But I am not worried about what we will do to respond to the potential logarithmic increase in global needs if the US government drops its programs.

Why is that? I go to the scriptures that says...

"Some take pride in chariots, and others in horses, but we trust in the Name of Yahweh our God..." (Psalm 20:7)

You can call it fatalistic thinking. You can call me a "Polyanna". I like to think of it in the simple light that God is in control...yesterday, today and forever. And, in the midst of impending unsurmountable problems, He is still and forever will be on His throne.

So, in the midst of overwhelming odds against us, in the midst of a government shutdown, and in the midst of barriers so high that we can't even imagine seeing over them...

"...We trust in the Name of the Lord our God."

Monday, October 7, 2013

Just Enough...

In the latter part of the book of Proverbs, Agur the oracle prays what might seem a strange prayer to us today...

"...Give me neither poverty nor wealth; feed me with the food I need. Otherwise, I might have too much and deny You, saying, 'Who is the Lord?' or I might have nothing and steal, profaning the name of my God." (Proverbs 30:8-9)

Just enough. That's what he prays for in his life. Not too much to take my eyes off the dependency that all of us need in God but not too little to prompt me to do something dishonest and thus disgrace the Name.

Jesus said pretty much the same thing when He taught His disciples a model prayer...

"Give us today our daily bread..." (Matthew 6:11)

Give us our necessary bread for today and tomorrow. No more no less.

Here is the spiritual truth. Sometimes my wealth of resources causes me to look away from God and His provisions. It cause me to look to my own resources, ideas and plans. I, in effect, become my own savior, the one in whom I put my trust.

Now none of us would ever say that verbally or admit it aloud. However, as our parents always taught us, actions speak louder than words.

I have the privilege and the humbling experience to see and work with believers worldwide who really don't have many earthly resources at all. Especially when compared to myself. Yet I find in most cases a rich faith in those who have learned to be dependent on God for their daily bread. In many cases, a deeper faith than I seem to be able to muster.

Honestly, I am uncomfortable with this verse and prayer. But I also know that there is nothing in the whole universe worth trusting more than the One who created it all. So, with much trepidation, I pray today...

"...Give me neither poverty nor wealth; feed me with the food I need. Otherwise, I might have too much and deny You, saying, 'Who is the Lord?' or I might have nothing and steal, profaning the name of my God."


Friday, October 4, 2013

True Wisdom and Understanding...

When we served in the Philippines, I noticed that during prayer times, I had some Filipino leaders and mentors who would always pray asking for wisdom and understanding. They asked for themselves in order to be good leaders in their respective ministries. I heard it so much, it became second nature to me as well. So most of you who know me have probably heard me (when asked about prayer requests) ask for, "wisdom and understanding", probably several times.

The writer of the Proverbs tells us a simple yet profound truth regarding these two. He tells us where wisdom begins and what understanding (or "true knowledge") is...

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom...

...and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." (Proverbs 9:10)

There are a lot of things the world today deems wise. There are many who will try to say this or that is the key to true knowledge. The writer of Proverbs makes it clear:

True wisdom begins when we fear and submit to God.

True knowledge and understanding comes from knowing and following Him.

So, I ask today that you pray for me to have wisdom and understanding in all that I say in do. That my wisdom and understanding will be rooted in fearing God and knowing Him.

I also ask you to pray for those in our church leadership, government, workplace, schools, etc., to have true wisdom and true understanding.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What Does the Lord Value?

I like to think of myself as a productive guy. I am relatively hard working. I believe my work and ministry has an eternal and Kingdom perspective. I make decisions daily that help people all around the world have better access to food and basic needs as well as facilitate proclamation of the gospel to many who have never heard. All in all, pretty impressive in some circles.

However, as impressive as I may seem to myself, I am not sure that any of this impresses God. In fact, I'm pretty sure that it doesn't. You see...

"He is not impressed by the strength of a horse; He does not value the power of a man. The Lord values those who fear Him, those who put their hope in His faithful love." (Psalm 147:10-11)

It's not that complex. God desires our hearts, our obedience and our submission, not our sacrifices. He desires us and our love, not the things that we can "do" for Him.

In an amazingly complex world that shouts at us confusing values..."Be this. Do that. Act this way to be accepted." None of this impresses or is valued by the One who matters the most: the Creator of Heaven and Earth.

A lonely prophet by the name of Micah captured it best when he said...

"Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)

Ironically, the most valuable and impressive thing that you or I could ever do is to simply love God and put our hope and trust in His faithful love for us. This kind of runs perpendicular to my human nature that seems to always wants to do more for God. And yet what He really wants is not my deeds but my worship and my heart.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The God of the Helpless...

If you've read the headlines in the news this morning, you saw, "Let the Shut Down Begin." Our US government, who couldn't reach a deal on the current budget, has basically come to a stand still. Services of national security and interest will continue but many "non-essential" (a federal government term, not mine) workers will be simply told to go home today. Their departments are non-functioning. These are departments such as federal park workers and those who help deliver things such as social services.

In comparison, I read Psalm 146 again this morning. It is a Psalm exalting the God of compassion. It talks of our God as a God that never abandons His post and is always on the side of the helpless. There is no crisis with Him. There is never any shut down. He is always on His throne and He is always Lord of all. 

The Psalmist extols the reader to remember...

"Happy is the one whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them. He remains faithful forever, executing justice for the exploited and giving food to the hungry..." (Psalm 146:5-7)

Some may live in a country that cannot agree on a budget and even at times not pay its bills. But we serve a God who never shuts down, remains faithful forever, and is always executing justice for the exploited and hungry. We serve a God who refreshingly has an unshakeable kingdom.

"The Lord (our Lord) frees prisoners. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord raises up those who are oppressed. The Lord loves the righteous. The Lord protects foreigners and helps the fatherless and the widow, but He frustrates the ways of the wicked." (Psalm 146:7-9)