Pastor Steve’s Full Blog Posts
This is the first of a series of responses to questions given to us by neighbors of our facility in Gresham.
This is the same question that many ask of immigrants or of people of other races. In the end, we want all people to recognize our values and mores and to leave us alone to live them. What we forget is that when we live in a community with other people, to insist we live by our mores means that we insist that other kinds of people live according to our standards as well.
There isn’t a “normal”. There is how we live. And there is nothing wrong with wanting to live in the way we consider “normal”. Unless our “normal” conflicts with another “normal” and we demand that everyone in our community live according to our “normal”. Suppose a large group of immigrants from Africa moved into your neighborhood and demanded that everyone tear down the fences that separated everyone’s backyards. There’s nothing wrong with having fences, nor is there anything wrong with not having fences. The only problem is when one group insists that everyone else lives like they are used to.
Even so, homeless people live differently than housed people. Some of this is due to survival mechanisms. Some of this is just different expectations of what is “normal”. Some of this is because they are stressed and some are mentally ill.
If you work with the leadership of the facilities that assist the homeless, compromises between the two different kinds of “normal” can be reached, so everyone can live contentedly. But to demand that the homeless or mentally ill suddenly have middle class cultural standards is unreasonable, even as it would be unreasonable to ask African neighbors to “act white.”
This is David. He was on the street for years but is now in his own housing and is doing well. He came back to say thank you and to bring a donation of clothing to those who have greater needs than he.
This is what he said:
“I was on the street for years. I got a job as a cook, but recently had a shoulder injury on which I had three surgeries. I can’t lift anything over 10 lbs with that arm anymore. Nevertheless, I have an apartment, a car, and I’m in training for a new occupation. I just wanted to make sure to say thank you to those who helped me get help. You are definitely one of those I need to thank.”
Do you want to say thank you to God for His provision when you were in need? Write it out here: http://hogansheroesfanclub.com/groups/anawim-portland/forum/topic/some-thanks/
It is time to proclaim to my people and to give them a message from God.
“Don’t speak quietly, but use megaphones and large speakers!
Inform My people of their wrongs, for it is time for them to repent!
“Everyday I listen to them and they pray to me, as if they were a people who were holy and loving and that hasn’t ignored the commands of God. Every day they praise me, declaring, “Praise you Jesus! We love you, our Father! There is no one else but You! Holy is the Lord!” How excited they are to be in my presence, to honor me with their words and give me their songs! They raise their hands in worship and close their eyes, emotions elated.
“And then they turn to me in anguish and cry out–
‘Why are our prayers not being answered?
We ask for healing, but we still live in our diseases.
We ask for sanity, but we still struggle with our minds.
We ask for purity, but we still fail you daily.
Haven’t you noticed our praise?
Haven’t you seen our commitment to you?
Haven’t you paid attention to our faith?’
“But you don’t understand what true worship is.
Worship is not just what you do in public,
Nor is it songs you sing in private.
The true worshipper brings me with them in their actions to others
The true lover of God treats the needy with equality and mercy.
“On Sunday you receive communion, you pray for your needs, and you take a day of rest, but you make demands of food service workers. You want rest and so you demand labor!
On Monday you enact your ritual of morning devotion, but you scream at your children to fulfill your petty demands!
On Wednesday you go to a Bible study, but you mock the homeless man on the street!
On Thursday you sing songs of praise with a recording, but you insist your employees work hard for you for minimum wage!
On Saturday you bow your head for your friends in need, but ignore the letters and calls for enacting charity!
“Is this the worship I desire?
For one to seek to be in my presence, but ignore the needy who are constantly in their presence?
You are lords, you are gods
You have god-like resources in your hands.
How do you think I will listen to you, if you will not listen to the cries of the needy?
“The worship I desire is that of humility, of surrender, of giving to the needy.
I hear you say, “But I give! I give so much that it pains me! I give so much money that I fear I shall myself become impoverished!”
Where did I ever say, “Give to the congregations of people that are already wealthy?”
In what Scripture do you read, “Surrender your wealth to the rich?”
Did my servant not say, “Tell the people to stop bringing their wealth, for we have enough”?
Did I not say, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor”?
Didn’t you note that my people collected an offering so that the resources might be distributed to the needy?
I never asked for cathedrals!
I never demanded opulent sanctuaries!
I never commanded my servants to be paid like CEOs!
“Here is the worship I demand:
To work to stop injustice
To release people from their oppressions
To give respect to the lowly and outcast
To speak kindly to the needy
“To give good food to the hungry, not leftovers
To welcome the homeless into your homes, not run down shelters
To give appropriate, warm clothing to the needy, not your cast offs from dinner parties
Stop disrespecting you sisters in shelters!
Stop distancing yourself from those who haven’t showered!
Stop being those who create the outcast– but rather eradicate the outcast from among yourselves!
“If you do this, if you give respect and resources and love to the needy among you,
Then I will raise you from your bed
Then I will deliver you from your anguish
Then I will eradicate the fear that destroys you”
Then the Lord will be known among you, and not hypocrisy
Then the righteousness of God will surround you
And protect you
And nurture you.
Then you will cry out to Him and He will answer
Then you will truly be in the presence of God, and not just a sham
But first you must remove from yourself those who point at the needy and call them unworthy.
You must surrender your shameless wealth from among you.
You must establish justice in your churches–
And more than that, humility.
The humility of giving to those who are not grateful
The humility of surrendering time when it seems not to help
The humility of listening to those who seem to be able to teach you nothing
The humility of honoring those who cannot honor back.
Then in the midst of this dark time, your light will shine to the heavens.
And the depression you are covered in will be transformed into joy.
God will guide you into the right way
And in the midst of terror, God will melt away your fear.
God will give strength to your bones and breath to your lungs.
And the ancient foundations
The building of Christ himself
Will be restored
And you will be called the Repairer
The rebuilder of theTemple
The revival of the Spirit of God.
The quick theological answer about the nature of God takes us through a quick tour of the “omnis”:
- Omnipotent: God is all powerful
- Omnipresent: God is in all places
- Omniscient: God knows all things
- Eternal: God is timeless
Biblically, I have questions about all of these statements. But the fact is, biblically, to say that the nature of God is his being or essence is to miss the point. That is a metaphysical answer to the question, not a biblical one.
There is one statement about the nature of God that is repeated many times in Scripture, and yet it is rarely quoted, or certainly not quoted as often as the omnis. The best answer to “what is the nature of God?” is:
“Yahweh, Yahweh God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in merciful faithfulness and truth, who keeps merciful faithfulness for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, yet he will not leave the guilty unpunished.” Exodus 34:6-7
This statement, in whole or part, is repeated at least 12 times in the OT alone. It is the basic creed of who God is, and is the basis for the statement “God is love” and is the basis for the NT statements which say that we, as God’s children, should imitate God (Luke 6:35-36; Eph 5:1).
Thus, we should focus on God being:
- Compassionate: One who understands and desires to help the weak.
- Gracious: One who gives of Himself to those in need
- Slow to anger: Doesn’t instantly respond to offenses, but takes time to consider a proper response
- Abounding in merciful faithfulness: When he keeps his promises, he does it for the benefit of those he is blessing
- Abounding in truth: Doesn’t lie, doesn’t break his promises
- Forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin: Is ready to cleanse the heart, mind and any debt incurred from any sin, real, ritual or imagined.
- Will not leave the guilty unpunished: Forgiveness is for the repentant, not for those who continue to purposely hurt others.
This is the true nature of God, and the basis of all biblical truth.
Would you like to talk about this subject in more depth? Go to the group: The Poor and the Bible
Around 1170s in Lyons there was a wealthy businessman named Peter Waldo (his last name could also be pronounced Valdes). He was a firm believer in Jesus and wanted to do all he could to obey him. So he asked a monk to translate the words of Jesus into a language Peter could understand. The monk did so, and so the book called Sentences was completed. Peter studied this book day and night, amazed at the teaching of Jesus.
Among the teaching he read were these:
“Sell your possessions and give to the poor.” Luke 12:33
“Anyone who does not surrender all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:33
“The Lord appointed seventy and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ “ Luke 10:1-9
After studying the teaching of Jesus for years, Peter determined that he needed to obey Jesus. He sold his possessions, sold his business, provided all his resources for the poor and began to preach the word of Jesus. Immediately, some of the leaders of the church were upset with him. They tried to stop him from preaching, saying that only the appointed bishops could preach God’s word. They tried to find all the copies of the Sentences and burn them. They even killed the monk who translated the Sentences for Peter.
However, they could do nothing to stop Peter Waldo, who gathered more and more followers. These followers were called “The Poor of Christ” and later called Waldensians. These followers were made up of the poor and women who were taught the words of Jesus and then sent out to preach them. The Waldensians taught that Jesus said we are to sell our possessions and give to the poor. They taught the Sermon on the Mount. They taught that the poor are not to be despised but accepted as brothers. They taught that the Bible should be followed, not human authority.
The Waldensians grew from a tiny movement to one that filled all of Europe. Eventually, the persecution against the Waldensians became so great that whole armies were sent out against them and thousands were killed and many more were tortured. It was illegal to be a Waldensian all over Europe. However, the Waldensian movement survived and exists today in Italy. They have since joined with the Methodist church.
A historical note: Peter Waldo wasn’t given the name “Peter” until many years later. He was known in his time as “Valdes”
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