Archive for the tag “poor”

More than bread alone

Erich Bridges writes at WorldView Conversation:

search for GodWhat is the meaning of life?

That’s a question only rich people have time to ponder, some folks say. The world’s poor are too busy struggling for survival to concern themselves with something as nebulous as the “meaning of life” — unless it helps put food on the table.

Not true, according to a recent study published in the academic journal Psychological Science.

The study analyzed Gallup World Poll data from more than 130 countries, including the bottom 50 in terms of gross domestic product. Citizens of poorer countries actually ranked the importance of meaning in their lives higher than residents of more prosperous nations. The study looked at multiple factors contributing to this phenomenon, but in country after country, a common element emerged: faith.

“In part, meaning in life was higher in poor nations because people in those nations were more religious,” reported the study’s authors. “The mediating role of religiosity remained significant after we controlled for potential third variables, such as education, fertility rate, and individualism. As Frankl stated in Man’s Search for Meaning, it appears that meaning can be attained even under objectively dire living conditions, and religiosity plays an important role in this search.”

They meant Viktor Frankl, the renowned psychiatrist and author, who said, “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” As a survivor of Nazi death camps, he had authority to speak personally on the subject. Echoing Nietzsche, Frankl wrote, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how.’”

The “why” for many people who responded to the Gallup World Poll is faith.

I can hear the skeptics now: Faith is a rickety crutch the poor lean on — and an opiate the powerful use to lull the weak into accepting their lot. That might apply to certain lives or particular moments in history, but it can’t explain the power of faith in the human heart through the ages.

Even in affluent societies where secularism and materialism appear to be prevailing, people want something more, something deeper, so they look for God substitutes. “Instead of relying on religion to give life meaning, people in wealthy societies today try to create their own meaning via their identity and self-knowledge,” the study reported. Materialism and self-worship have become the “religions” of the rich, but they’re obscene counterfeits of the worship of God.

When Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness, the devil challenged Him to prove He was the Son of God by changing stones to bread. Jesus answered from the Scriptures: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God”’ (Matthew 4:4, NASB).

Humanity needs bread to sustain life. But bread isn’t enough. People crave the Bread of Life: Jesus Christ. That’s why the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ and the making of disciples among all peoples are the primary mission of God for His church in the world.

There are many ways to carry out that mission — including feeding the poor, ministering to the sick and needy and seeking justice for the oppressed. Fair-minded observers who put aside stereotypes of evangelical Christians long enough to examine evangelical activities in the world quickly discover that they are doing all of those things (see some examples here). The love of Christ compels them. Above all, however, the Great Commission command of Christ and the mission of God compel them. There is no artificial division between the Word of Christ and the love of Christ in authentic ministry.

“Every time Jesus sent out His disciples and apostles, He always told them to heal the sick and preach the Gospel,” said a missionary doctor some years ago. “It’s not that we heal so that we can preach. We’re not ‘bait.’ We heal and preach together in obedience to the commands of Jesus. It’s like a two-handled plow: You heal, you preach and you push forward — and God cuts the path so He can plant the seeds of the Gospel through His power.”

The Gospel gives ultimate meaning.

Worship and the cry of the poor

Click to view conference trailer

Click to view conference trailer

Isaac Wardell writes about the April 22-24 Bifrost Arts conference in Philadelphia:

Conversations about worship in the church often focus on the style of our music, or on the formality of our aesthetics, or on the content of our lyrics. In many churches, conversations about worship can become completely centered around the congregation’s priorities, so much so that they can even lose sight of God’s priorities for our worship.

Throughout the Bible, God tells His people time and time again that if they are disobedient to His Word that He will not accept their worship. In His Word, He commands His people to worship Him alone and to obey His commands to serve the poor and needy. In fact, God specifically admonishes His people “whoever closes His ear to the cry of the poor will himself cry out and not be answered” (Proverbs 21:13).

This April, Bifrost Arts presents a worship conference entitled “The Cry of the Poor: worship, mercy, and community.” At this event we will focus on two things: First, we will make a theological case, specifically from Isaiah 55-61 for the connection between worship and obedience. Secondly, we will have a series of practical workshops about how local congregations can better serve the least of these in our midst and in our communities. We will have conversations about worshiping with those with disabilities, worshiping in a multilingual context, worship and the elderly, forming our children for mercy, and the formation of communities through the arts.

Information on conference registration, scholarships and discounts may be found by clicking here.

Blessed are the undesirable … God’s true gifts

thepoorFrank Viola writes at Beyond Evangelical:

At this moment, I have in mind the faces of the poor and afflicted whom I’ve worked with in 2012 and will continue to, God willing, this year.

Some of them have very few friends. Some of them are living in poverty. Some of them have mental illnesses that regularly torment them. Some of them have legal problems. Some of them have gone nose-to-nose with suicide. Some of them are incredibly needy.

This practical ministry has been – at times – emotionally, mentally, and physically draining. …

Sometimes I grow weary of seeing God do something amazing, only to see it overturned a month later.

Sometimes I rejoice in seeing some of these people learn to walk with God.

Yet amid the light and the shade, I believe this is where the Lord wants me in this season.

The whole experience has been transforming. It reminds me of how deep the Fall goes. It keeps me dependent on Jesus for fresh grace. It keeps me in touch with the frailty of humanity. It keeps me in touch with my own frailty, my own brokenness, and my own daily need of a Savior . . . Jesus Christ of Nazareth who is Resurrection and Life.

It also puts things in perspective. When your mind is absorbed with the plight of others, what happens to you doesn’t seem all that important.

Blessed are the undesirable. They are God’s true gifts to this earth . . . and to us.

To read the full text of this excellent post, click here.
Have you read Frank Viola’s book Beyond Evangelical? It’s about a new breed of orthodox Christians God is raising up who are breaking free from the Christian Right vs. Left quagmire, marked by an uncommon devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ as this world’s true Lord.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: