Helping or Hurting?

Can you imagine going to a doctor and getting a diagnosis which says you have an infection when in reality you have a brain tumour? One of the families we helped with some grocery gift cards recently faced this experience. How do you help someone who can’t get enough to eat because they have serious physical set backs (the family also has an autistic son, a three year old daughter and other complications which keeps the mom from being able to work much)?

Poverty is a complicated reality because every story of an impoverished person is different. We are designed for relationship with God, with others, with creation and with ourselves but these seem to get fractured as we get caught in the web of poverty. The solution isn’t simply giving material handouts. You can’t buy love at the grocery store.

Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, in their book Helping Without Hurting, state that “When these relationships [listed above] are functioning in the way God designed them to function, humans experience the fullness of life that God intended: we experience deep communion with a loving God; we understand our inherent dignity and worth as image-bearers; we live in positive, giving relationships with others; and we actively steward God’s creation, both caring for it and being able to work and to support ourselves as  result of that work. Indeed, when these relationships are working properly, the results bubble up in all aspects of our lives: families are nurturing, communities are flourishing, work is meaningful, and we are bringing glory to God in all that we do.”

Perhaps we are more impoverished than we realized. Our own addictive behaviors, our abuse or exploitation at the hands of others, our living under oppressive systems and our vulnerability to demonic forces can leave us emotionally, psychologically, mentally, socially or spiritually weakened.

The need for a vital, caring, prayerful, dignified, compassionate community in our church is vital but it is the need for rich relationships and opportunities which seem to be the best counter to personal poverty in whatever forms it appears. Since the fall, every one of us is broken, hurting or needy in some way.

What do you think? Are there signs of poverty in your own life which show you need community? Are there practices or efforts in our church family which need to be adjusted to truly deal with the poverty in our neighbourhood and in our own fellowship? Be rich to one another.

Are you living the right story ?

We live in a world of stories. We love to hear stories and tell stories. Our stories
fill out our sense of identity, purpose, need and hope. My son Richard was home
from Rwanda a month ago and he and his sisters and I were sitting around our
living room sharing stories. It got a little weepy at one point. My young
granddaughter Kylie stopped at the door for a moment, left and returned with an
armload of stuffed sheep. She quietly went to each person and dropped a sheep
into their arms then she left. We all hugged our sheep and kept telling stories but
that sensitive act of Kylie is a story worth telling.
The Christmas story is a story of God stepping into our weepy human story with
a lamb and weaving our story into his bigger story. The challenge for most
people is that there are so many different versions of Christmas stories that it
can be confusing. Getting the right story is important because that story will
define our sense of identity, purpose, need and hope.
The main Christmas story most of our children hear is that they are at the center
of the story. By being good and doing good they can get what they want. If they
get what they want they will be happier, with-it, smarter, comfortable, loved. All
their hopes and dreams will be satisfied.
Christmas in the first story is about what we give and what we get. When we get
older it’s about dressing up and getting out, eating, putting a smile on our face
and staying busy shopping – but it’s still about giving and getting. There’s a
popular commercial that boldly says “I want that.” That’s the first story.
The alternate Christmas story of the Bible is the one we quickly refer to at this
time of year and then put back on the shelf until next year. In this story God is at
the center and it is all about him – his love, his gift, his action, his sacrifice. The
story is plain and simple, nothing to attract Hollywood to make a film about it.
It’s about a sin-broken world wrestling with overwhelming issues, people making
self-destructive choices, desperate for a Saviour, hoping against hope to make it
through another day. It’s about the Creator stepping off his throne as our king
and being humiliated to becoming a baby in a refugee family. When we grow up
with this story we realize that the tag line changes from “I want that” to “He
wants this.”
Why is the right Christmas story so important when it comes to our identity,
purpose, need and hope?
Perhaps during 2018 we can focus more intentionally on exposing our hearts to
the right story.