June 29, 2017 · 5:00 AM
Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
Recently, I went to lunch with several coworkers from different departments in my company. When they suggested an expensive place to eat, I hesitated at first. They said, “What’s the matter?” Then one remembered and said, “Oh yeah. Your department doesn’t budget for food like ours does.” I replied, “I have to think about dinner. I don’t want to spend all my per diem on lunch.” Someone replied, “Come on, poor kid. We’ll figure something out.”
I haven’t been the “poor boy” at the table since I was a kid. All these emotions came running back to me. I remembered what it was like as a kid to be at the mercy of whoever had invited me to eat. I was taught to see what they were thinking of ordering so I could order something less expensive. There were a lot of lessons I learned being the poor kid at the table. Lessons that helped shape who I am today.
One thing it taught me was humility. When you’re the one who is depending on someone else, you learn all about humility. You don’t get what you want, you get what they allow you to have. It’s when we can afford to get what we want that we forget about humility. We forget how to depend on someone else. We forget how to depend on God. We tell Him, “I can do this,” and we save Him for bigger things in our life. That’s usually when we start to treat Him like a genie.
God never wanted to be a genie and He doesn’t want us to save Him just for the big things in our lives. He wants us to know what it’s like to trust Him for everything. He wants us to know what it truly means to walk by faith. The problem is that walking by faith is scary after you’ve adjusted to a life of walking by sight. We can return to that place of trust if we are willing to be the poor kid at the table once again.
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May 30, 2017 · 5:37 AM
One of the cool things I got to do this year was to be a part of YWAM’s Houston Street Church. After we set up all the chairs, the homeless and street walkers started showing up. They were fed a meal and then given a church service. There was a booth set up called Kuts for Christ. They offered free hair cuts in exchange for the ability to pray for them. After the service, those still in attendance were able to stop by some tables and pick out some clothes. Every bit of it was free and designed to help this team build relationships to win them to Christ.
As I drove away that night, I couldn’t help but reflect on what I had just witnessed and been a part of. I saw society’s outcasts waiting to hug the couple that leads this church. I saw them lining up almost two hours before the event to get help physically and spiritually. I watched a team of volunteers and full time mission workers org together to do something special for people the rest of us look away from. I witnessed ministry taking place in an unexpected place.
It reminded me of Proverbs 19:17 that says, “If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord- and He will repay you!” (NLT) I know that these ministers aren’t doing this to get paid back by the Lord. They’re doing it as an expression of love. When I saw their faces light up as much as the people on the street, I knew this was more than a feeding and clothing program. Real relationships had been built. Real help was being given. Real ministry was being done.
One thing I’ve learned in life is that there’s always someone who has it worse than me. No matter what financial, emotional or physical state I’m in, I have the ability to help others less fortunate. In Matthew 25, Jesus said that when we do things for the poor and outcasts, we’ve done it to Him. The least of these are all around us every day. Take some time to look for them instead of away from them, and do something to help them. It doesn’t matter what they do with your help as long as you’re doing it unto the Lord.
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March 24, 2017 · 5:37 AM
We all know the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, and we’ve heard many sermons on it. But what if there’s more to the story that we’ve missed? What if it’s not just about a lost soul returning home? I believe it could also be about how we care for the poor as believers. Take a look at verses 16-17. “The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything. “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger!” (NLT)
There was no one in the land he was living in who gave him anything when he was in need. So he left that area. He remembered how his father cared for the poor. He thought that even if he wasn’t his father’s son anymore, that his father would have compassion on him because he was poor. So he returned. In looking for compassion, he found salvation. There’s a lesson there for us as believers. When we care for the poor, they’ll find salvation.
Here are some verses on caring for the poor.
1. Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but helping the poor honors him.
Proverbs 14:31 NLT
2. Jesus answered him, “If you wish to be perfect [that is, have the spiritual maturity that accompanies godly character with no moral or ethical deficiencies], go and sell what you have and give [the money] to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me [becoming My disciple, believing and trusting in Me and walking the same path of life that I walk].”
MATTHEW 19:21 AMP
3. Defend the rights of the poor and the orphans; be fair to the needy and the helpless. Rescue them from the power of evil people.
Psalm 82:3-4 GNT
4. Be generous to the poor—you’ll never go hungry; shut your eyes to their needs, and run a gauntlet of curses.
Proverbs 28:27 MSG
5. Those who shut their ears to the cries of the poor will be ignored in their own time of need.
Proverbs 21:13 NLT
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February 24, 2017 · 5:33 AM
One of the things God wants each of us to do is to help those who are less fortunate. You don’t have to go to a third world country to help poor people either. Every country and community has people who need help, but what can we do about it if the problem is so great? I like what Andy Stanley says: Do for one, what you wish you could do for every one. Don’t let what you can’t do keep you from what you can do. You don’t have to single handedly make a dent in poverty, but you can make a difference in one person’s life.
Too often we look at the whole instead of the individual. We get overwhelmed and think there’s nothing we can do, but that’s not true. You can make a difference in one person’s life. You can help them find a better paying job, you can pay for their groceries, you can watch their kids while they job hunt, you can offer some extra cash,, etc. God’s heart is to care for the poor, and if it’s important to Him, it should be important to us.
Here are some verses that show God’s concern for the poor.
1. When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. It is the same with your grape crop—do not strip every last bunch of grapes from the vines, and do not pick up the grapes that fall to the ground. Leave them for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the LORD your God.
Leviticus 19:9-10 NLT
2. Defend the rights of the poor and the orphans; be fair to the needy and the helpless.
Psalm 82:3 GNT
3. For the poor will never cease out of the land; therefore I command you, You shall open wide your hands to your brother, to your needy, and to your poor in your land.
Deuteronomy 15:11 AMPC
4. Jesus looked him hard in the eye—and loved him! He said, “There’s one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me.”
Mark 10:21 MSG
5. Then these righteous ones will reply, “Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?” And the King will say, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”
Matthew 25:37-40 NLT
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November 1, 2016 · 5:46 AM
One of my favorite games as a kid was Monopoly. We could sit up for hours playing it. The goal was to buy as much property as you could, and if possible, to buy Boardwalk and Park Place. One of the underlying things that game teaches you is if you buy enough things, you’ll win. That reminds me of a guy who lived in my town. He had a customized truck that I thought was awesome. It had a sticker on the back windshield that read, “He who has the most toys wins!” It’s that same attitude of owning things equals winning.
When our identity and self image is tied to things we own, it’s a pretty hard fall when we lose them. It’s not bad to own things; it’s bad to be owned by things. To discover which type of person we are, we have to ask ourselves about the motivating factor in having them. Is it a want or a deep seated need in us to own them? When we feel we need them in order to feel a certain way or to project a certain image, owning things can be a problem.
In Luke 12:15, Jesus said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own” (NLT). That’s the opposite of our Monopoly mindset. We associate winning with owning things and God associates winning with having a relationship with Him. Can you have both? Of course. I know plenty of people who are blessed beyond measure because they give tithes, offerings, and more to meet the needs of others. They’ve recognized that their identity is in God, and all they have is His, so it’s not hard to give away what they have.
We can’t afford to sacrifice our relationship with God in order to own things or to build our wealth. As Jesus said in Luke 12:21, “A person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” Are you spending your quality time building your portfolio or your relationship with God? You can win at life, but lose at eternity. Invest in building a relationship with God. You will find that once you seek Him first, all these other things will be added to you. It’s a matter of priorities and God wants to be first in your life.
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October 20, 2016 · 6:21 AM
If I’m honest, I’d rather be a person who helps others than a person who receives help from others. It’s hard for me to accept help even when I need it. There have been times in my life though when I’ve needed help because I was unable to do what needed to be done. When others tried to help, I tried to push them away. Then one day, a person who was trying to help me said, “You’re robbing me of my blessing if you don’t let me help!” I had never thought of it like that.
I had forgotten that it is more blessed to give than to receive. I was definitely blessed by their giving, but I didn’t think about the blessing on the other side. I know they weren’t doing it for the blessing, but in my refusal, I was robbing them of what they would have received from God for helping me. Every act of service gets two blessings. By declining my blessing (which was a dumb thing), I was denying them theirs. So why do we reject help?
For me, I grew up in a family that needed the help of others often. God was always faithful to us and people showed up at the right times. I’ll never forget one family that helped me in particular. As they gave me a tremendous gift, I asked how I could repay them. They said, “One day when you’re able, do the same for others.” I decided then and there that I wanted to be a person who helped others rather than a person who needed help. So when I need help, it takes me back to that time and feelings of being the poor kid come up.
In Matthew 10, Jesus was sending out the disciples to preach all over Israel. He told them not to take any money, which meant they would be dependent on other’s help. He knew that needing help also keeps us humble. In verse 41 He spoke a life changing truth when He said, “Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help” (MSG). By accepting help from others, you are actually helping them. They get a blessing from your acceptance. Don’t deny or rob others of blessings because of pride. Look at it as your way of helping them when you have nothing else to give. Don’t be a blessing thief.
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May 24, 2016 · 12:01 AM
One of the most well known parables of Jesus comes from Luke 15:11-32. It’s the story of the Prodigal Son. Before you quit reading, I want to look at this story a little differently than before. As you know, he took his inheritance early, moved away, and wasted it on wild living and prostitutes. In verse 16, he was so broke and hungry that he had to feed pigs and even their slop looked appealing to him. The end of that verse tells us everything: “But no one gave him anything” (NLT).
Here’s a guy, who when he had money, was throwing it around. He was surrounded by people who enjoyed him buying their drinks, paying for their meals, and throwing parties they would attend. When he was broke, hungry, and homeless, those people were nowhere to be found. Why? Because we despise people who are poor. We enjoy being around people who have money and are generous with it, but we tend to hide from the poor, especially if we know them.
Think about it. Even his own brother despised him because he was poor. In verse 28, it says, “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in.” When his father asked why, part of his excuse was that his brother had squandered his money. When the chips are down, sometimes even your family avoids you. Most of us have been at this point in our lives. Broke. Hungry. Hurting. What happened? As the country song by Tracy Lawrence goes, “You find out who your friends are.”
Proverbs 14:20-21 rejects the kind of behavior that runs to the rich and hides from the poor. It says, “The poor are despised even by their neighbors, while the rich have many ‘friends.’ It is a sin to belittle one’s neighbor; blessed are those who help the poor.” To me, the parable of the Prodigal Son is as much about us running to the poor as it is about our Father running to us when we confess our sins. If you know someone who’s had a bad turn of events, quit avoiding them, and find a way to run to them in their time of need.
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November 18, 2013 · 7:51 AM
I forgot how hard it was to go back to work and my normal everyday life after a trip to Haiti. It’s hitting me this morning though. As I pull out of my driveway, drive out of my neighborhood and turn onto the freeway, part of me is fighting it. I wonder why can’t every day be full time ministry, why every day can’t be spent on the mission field and why can’t I be doing things with an eternal purpose all the time. It’s an ongoing struggle that I’ve had since April and was renewed with this trip. It’s hard to do things that won’t matter for eternity once your perspective changes. It’s hard to do the things you once did when you see the need others have.
When you meet an entire village of people who are living without electricity, cell phones, Internet or brick and mortar homes you begin to see how truly blessed we are. You also see how wasteful we are. When a bug hits my windshield, I simply pull a button to spray water to clean him off. In Myan, Haiti, a person would have to walk six miles for water that I’m using to wash a bug off my windshield. When I get the same meal two days in a row, I complain. There, they’re lucky to have a meal each day. They’re thankful for the same meal over and over because it’s life and death.
There’s so much to be done there and yet, so much has been done. It’s easy to see a mess that big and think, “I can’t possibly make a difference here.” You can also pretend that it doesn’t exist. After all, ignorance is bliss. If you aren’t aware of it, you don’t have to do anything to help. The only solution I know of is to go in, get your hands dirty, connect with the people so it becomes real names and people, not just stories, and then do what you can to make a difference with what’s in your hand. If you can’t go, help someone who can.
The real question is, “What has God given me that He intends for me to use for Him?” I am and have been wasteful with what He’s given me. We think we have so little because we’re comparing ourselves to the rich in this country. If you look at the other 98% of the world, the “little” you have is more than they will ever have. We use the excuse of “I don’t have much” to keep us from giving or doing things that matter. In reality, we have been blessed more than we will ever know. As Jesus said in Luke 12:48, “To whom much is given, much is required.” If you can read this, you’ve been given much more than most of the world.
What excuses have you made that have kept you from giving and using what God has given you? Have you falsely compared yourself to the world’s wealthiest people instead of to the majority of the population? What will you do differently going forward? How can God use your “little” to make a big impact in the world of others? It all starts with you recognizing how much you truly have, how wasteful you’ve been with it and opening your eyes to the potential God sees in you. What are you willing to let go of that He can use? The power of letting go rests in your hands.
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August 15, 2013 · 8:12 AM
I’ve got Haiti on my heart this morning. Partly because I’m headed back in a few months and partly because we watched a video from Richard Stearns from World Vision last night. He reminded us of the scripture in Matthew 25:35-40 where Jesus told of the day where God will separate the sheep from the goats. Jesus said that He will turn to the sheep and say, “I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.’ (MSG)”
What stood out to me last night as he read that scripture was the response of the sheep. They said, “Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ (MSG)”. They didn’t even realize it was Jesus they were doing it to. They were doing those things because God’s love compelled them to.
That’s a stark contrast from where the Church is today. The Barna Group released the results of a study yesterday. They interviewed over 700 self-professed Christians and asked a series of 20 questions about attitudes and actions. In the end, only 14% of self-professed Christians were found to have the attitudes and actions of Jesus. Another 14% had the actions of Jesus, but not His attitude. The results show a lot more and if you like, you can see it here.
If we add those numbers together, barely a quarter of Christians act like Jesus. He spent His time in ministry to the poor, the hurting, the outcasts, the leppers and the unwanted. He spent very little time with those who were looking for power and prestige. He made it clear that He wanted us to do the same. You can see that in what He said in Matthew 25. The ones who made it to Heaven were those who fed the hungry, gave drinks to the thirsty, sheltered the homeless, gave clothes to the poor and visited those who were sick or in prison. When is the last time we’ve done any of those things?
We’ve spent millions building bigger, more stylish churches and only thousands on taking care of the poor. I look at those results of the Barna group and ask myself, “What area do I fall in? Do I have both the attitudes and actions of Jesus? Am I in the 28% or in the other 72%?” Those are tough questions that God and I are going to work through. I encourage you to ask the same questions. If you’re not in the 28%, what can you start doing today to move in that direction? How can you be one of the sheep instead of a goat?
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June 26, 2013 · 7:11 AM
Yesterday, I went to lunch with several coworkers from different departments in the company. When they suggested an expensive place to eat, I hesitated at first. They said, “What’s the matter?” Then one remembered and said, “Oh yeah. Your department doesn’t budget for food like ours does.” I replied, “I have to think about dinner. I don’t want to spend my per diem on lunch.” Someone replied, “Come on, poor boy. We’ll figure something out.”
I haven’t been the “poor boy” at the table since I was a kid. All these emotions came running back to me. I remembered what it was like to be at the mercy of whoever had invited me to eat. I had to see what they were thinking of ordering so I could order something less expensive. There were a lot of lessons I learned being the poor boy at the table. Lessons that helped shape who I am today.
One thing it taught me was humility. When you’re the one who is depending on someone else, you learn all about humility. You don’t get what you want, you get what they allow you to have. It’s when we can afford to get what we want that we forget about humility. We forget how to depend on someone else. We forget how to depend on God. We tell Him, “I can do this,” and we save Him for bigger things in our life. We start to treat Him like a genie.
God never wanted to be a genie and He doesn’t want us to save Him for the big things in our lives. He wants us to know what it’s like to trust Him for everything. He wants us to know what it truly means to walk by faith. The problem is that walking by faith is scary after you’ve adjusted to a life of walking by sight. It’s at that point that we only look to God in the dark hours of our life. He wants to be there with you in the light and the dark, the good and the bad.
Another thing being the poor kid at the table taught me was appreciation. I learned to appreciate what I had. I wasn’t going to get anything new for a while. I had to appreciate and take care of anything new that I got. My mom would say, “Those have to last you until Christmas. That’s when we can get you new ones.” Those words would ring in my ear as I had to make a decisions. Other kids got new stuff when theirs broke. They didn’t appreciate what they had. God wants us to be appreciative for everything He’s given us and not to be always wanting something we don’t have.
God gives each of us what we need. We don’t always get what we want. He said that when we’re faithful over the little things He’s given us, He’ll give us more. We have to learn to be humble enough to recognize that the little we have is enough. We also have to learn to appreciate it and take care of it by being faithful with it. When we learn to do those things, He knows we’re ready for more.
There’s always another level for Him to take us to. Have we learned to be happy being the poor kid at the table so He can take us there? Or are we resentful that we’re in this position and are constantly trying to get to that next level on our own strength? I’ve tried it both ways. Yesterday reminded me that it’s ok to be the poor kid at the table. All I have is from God anyway. When I learn to accept what He gives, I’m really the rich one.
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