Cru Inner City: A Heart for the Poor by John Sather

This past weekend I had the privilege of participating in a Christmas in New York gathering for friends of Cru Inner City.  We saw some of the realities of life in the inner city and heard stories of help and hope. I was especially moved by this message from John Sather, co-national director of this ministry to the poor and marginalized.  This truly expresses the heart of God. You will want to watch the Brennan Manning video at the end--I believe this helps us grasp the heart of Christmas. Matthew 5:3 - "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 25:40 - "And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' Jeremiah 22: 16 - "He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me? declares the Lord." Isaiah 61:1 - “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners...” Psalm 35:10 - “All my bones shall say,“O Lord, who is like you, delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him, the poor and needy from him who robs him?” "Passionate Concern" Isaiah 58:1-12 Pastor John Piper states, “The point of Isaiah 58 is this: Piety that does not produce a passion for God-exalting social justice and practical mercy is worthless. Or to put it positively: God promises that we will break forth like the dawn if our piety produces a passion for social justice and practical mercy.” The core of our belief must be the gospel and especially when it comes to doing biblical justice ministry: Pastor Tim Keller states so well: “The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus Read more

Recognizing The Amazing Humility of Advent

How much more did Jesus humble himself to enter our Read more

Ask Mom Now: Creative Campus Conversations

But on this day, following the election, the fear was palpable. I heard the word “terrified” Read more

What to Wear as a Child of God: Love

Love is the “obi” that binds together all that Christ has called and empowered us to be. Read more

Gratitude for a Grievous Gift--Redbud Post

The neglect and abuse he had experienced overshadowed everything we did for Read more

Cru Inner City: A Heart for the Poor by John Sather

This past weekend I had the privilege of participating in a Christmas in New York gathering for friends of Cru Inner City.  We saw some of the realities of life in the inner city and heard stories of help and hope. I was especially moved by this message from John Sather, co-national director of this ministry to the poor and marginalized.  This truly expresses the heart of God. You will want to watch the Brennan Manning video at the end–I believe this helps us grasp the heart of Christmas.

Friends at the Cru Inner City warehouse

Packing homeless care kits: blanket, hats, gloves, scarfs, toiletries, health protein bars, booklet that tells all the social services they can go to for help.

  • Matthew 5:3 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
  • Matthew 25:40 – “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
  • Jeremiah 22: 16 – “He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me? declares the Lord.”
  • Isaiah 61:1 –The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…”
  • Psalm 35:10 – “All my bones shall say,“O Lord, who is like you, delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him, the poor and needy from him who robs him?”

“Passionate Concern”

Isaiah 58:1-12

Pastor John Piper states, “The point of Isaiah 58 is this: Piety that does not produce a passion for God-exalting social justice and practical mercy is worthless. Or to put it positively: God promises that we will break forth like the dawn if our piety produces a passion for social justice and practical mercy.”

The core of our belief must be the gospel and especially when it comes to doing biblical justice ministry: Pastor Tim Keller states so well: “The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself or less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.”

Prayer before packing

Read Isaiah 58:1-12. In these passages there are five basic human needs that God is passionately concerned about for every person. These reflect the mission, vision and values of Cru® Inner City:

1.The need for freedom from bondage and oppression.

Four times in verse 6 and once in verse 9 the writer comments on this. Verse 6: “Loose the bonds of wickedness, undo the straps of the yoke, let the oppressed go free, break every yoke.” Verse 9b: “Take away the yoke from your midst.”

How can the inner workings of the heart be changed from a dynamic of fear and anger and control to that of love, joy, freedom and gratitude? Here is how. We need to be moved by the sight of what it cost to bring us home. The key difference between a Pharisee and a believer in Jesus is inner-heart motivation. Pharisees are being good but out of a fear-fueled need to control God. They don’t really trust him or love him. To them God is an exacting boss, not a loving father. Christians, on the other hand, have seen something that has transformed their hearts toward God so they can finally love and rest in the Father.”— Pastor Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God

2. The need for food.

Verse 7a: “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry?”

3. The need for housing.

Verse 7b: “[Is it not] to bring the homeless poor into your house?”

4. The need for clothing.

Verse 7c: “[Is not this the fast I choose:] When you see the naked, to cover him?

5. The need for respect.

Verse 9b: “Take away . . . the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness.” In other words, stop accusing unjustly and belittling and exploiting.

The God of the Bible (found in Christ alone) is present with the poor, the hungry, the broken, the disabled, the mentally ill, the aging, the marginalized and the powerless.

When our focus is on being in control, obsessed with success, having influence at any cost, grabbing for power and angry when things don’t go our way, do we really know God? When we know Him, have been transformed by His grace, we naturally move towards those who are truly like ourselves: those experiencing brokenness, loneliness and struggling with human need. Pastor John Piper said “I love it when the church moves towards needs not comfort.”

For us to carry out God’s Great Command to love our neighbor, we need to stay close to those who are small, vulnerable and weak, caring about their needs.

folding blankets

 

making new friends

Isaiah preaches biblical justice to the people of God simply and profoundly, so our piety, our love for God should produce a passion for biblical justice and practical mercy…because we WANT TO not have to...

  • When we discover His grace and mercy, at the foot of the Cross, we can truly rejoice and experience the love of Jesus because we will want that for others too!
  • Tim Keller says “…when justice for the poor is connected not to guilt but to grace and to the gospel, this “pushes the button” down deep in believers’ souls, and they begin to wake up–” Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just

All the rest of this text of Isaiah is a promise about the good things that happen in our lives when we give ourselves away to others in the cause of justice and mercy. And we know from the fulfillment of this prophecy (in Jesus) that this does not mean we earn God’s blessings. God himself, through Christ, purchases them for us at the cross and empowers us to fulfill the conditions for them.

Verse 8: “If you give yourself away to bring justice and mercy in the world, instead of just living for your own comforts….

“…Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’.” [He continues in the middle of verse 10:] “then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. 11 And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. 12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.”

Brennan Manning has produced a powerful short video on Compassion 

What about you? How is God growing your heart of compassion?

john-satherJohn Sather is the co-national director of Cru Inner City, seeking comprehensive Biblical Justice thru the local church. He and his wife, Chris, live in Minneapolis/St. Paul. You can find him on Facebook  and Twitter.




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Recognizing The Amazing Humility of Advent

Advent is a perfect time to stop—in the midst of much crazy busyness—and reflect on who and why we celebrate at Christmas.

advent

Edith Schaeffer was coming to my house.

I had read most everything she had written.. I considered her a mentor without ever meeting her. She had had significant impact on my spiritual perceptions. I was grateful.

Then I heard she would be speaking at a conference where I lived. Of course I would go. Possibly Vonette Bright would have a reception for her—and I could meet her.

True confession: I prayed Vonette would not be able to host the reception and it would be held next door at my home! My prayers were answered. Edith was a guest in my home. She came, signed my guest book with her traditional mountain sketch—and stayed to chat with me.

Surely she had humbled herself to enter my world.

How much more did Jesus humble himself to enter our world!

I can’t remember not believing in Jesus, though I didn’t truly meet Him until I was 15. I had a growing perception of what He suffered on the cross to make payment for my sins. But many years passed before I began to recognize that His sacrifice began well before the cross.

It began with the amazing humility of Advent—His first coming to our earth.

Paul gives us a glimpse of this in Philippians 2.

     “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

     “Who, being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;” (Philippians        2:5-6)

Jesus, God Himself, did not hold on to, grasp, use his high position. He was equal to God but was willing to give up the power and prestige of that reality.

“…rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Philippians 2:7) 

He made Himself nothing. No position, prestige or power. Just…nothing.

He took on the very nature of a servant. Most of us look for ways to be served rather than to serve. All the angels in glory were at His service, yet He chose to become a servant to all.

And, the most amazing truth of all: he became human. The high and holy God entered into Mary’s womb and was born as a totally dependent baby. Talk about humbling Himself.

     “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death– even death on a cross!”                (Philippians 2:8)

 He lived among us—just think what it is like for you to “live among” the people and challenges of our world. He endured ridicule, persecution, questioning, betrayal, abandonment—and finally death. For you. For me.

Advent. Why did He come? Why did He humble Himself?

Because of His great love for us. We had rejected the world he had given us and chosen to go our own way. But He wouldn’t let us go—He loved us too much. So began His relentless pursuit of us, to reconcile, redeem and restore us to a beautiful relationship with Him.

The entire Old Testament tells story after story of this unfailing love.

“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son,…” (Galatians 4:4) Advent marks the beginning of the visible evidence to us that He has never given up. Jesus came for us.

And now we await the second Advent—when He comes again.

What about you? What does Advent mean to you?

C2016 Judy Douglass

 

 




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Ask Mom Now: Creative Campus Conversations

 

conversation with students

“Can I have a hug with that cookie?”

It was the day after the election. I was on the University of Central Florida campus with a group called Ask Mom Now, handing out cookies, conversation, advice to students who could use a word from a Mom. A young man took the cookie, and gladly exchanged a hug as well–and lingered for a brief conversation.

ask mom sign

 

It was my first visit to the UCF campus in several years. I was amazed at the diversity. So much color, so many international students, so many religious backgrounds. It was beautiful.

But on this day, following the election, the fear was palpable. I heard the word “terrified” repeatedly.

They are afraid:

“I will be sent home.”

“I might get killed.”

“I won’t be able to finish my education here.”

“My family will be split apart.”

talking w a student

 

The cookies are always welcome—and were gone quickly today.

Many seemed hungrier for conversation.

Seven moms in white shirts engaged, asked questions, listened, encouraged—and sometimes prayed.

Six moms are at their Ask Mom Now cookie station every Wednesday afternoon. I was with them for the first time—it was an incredible experience for me.

Why are they there? To connect with students, to be a local mom when their mother may be across the state or across the world. To show love and give encouragement.

conversation with students

The questions vary greatly. Connie Amon, one of the originators of Ask Mom, describes what happens: “Most people enjoy talking about themselves, especially if someone is really listening. Topics range from all ends of the cultural spectrum: sex, drugs, all religions, relationships (roommates, teachers, parents, landlords), laundry, cooking, time-management, purpose of life, illness…you name it! And now, the election.

“When I asked how they felt about the outcome of the election, most said they were afraid,” Connie continued. “So I asked what they were most afraid of. Some didn’t know exactly, just a feeling. One gal mentioned homophobia and possible consequences, especially from her family. When I asked another her top concerns, she thanked me for asking because she hadn’t really stopped to think specifically like that.

“One gal revealed she had just become sexually active the night before and was scared she might be pregnant. Another woman confessed she had stolen her friend’s boyfriend, was feeling guilty and stressed, and needed advice. A young man was brokenhearted because his girlfriend dumped him. We also get requests for prayer…especially for upcoming tests or papers,” Connie added.

chatting with students

Of course conversation sometimes turns to spiritual topics. Some like to talk about their spiritual background. Others have no concept of God, or no interest. But some are intrigued that there might be a knowable personal God they could have a relationship with.

“We seek to connect their concerns to the fact that we are created for relationship…first with God, then with others,” Connie added. “Our real challenge is to find pathways into charitable conversations.

“If students aren’t asking us what we believe, we seek to keep the spotlight on what they believe and think. At the end of the day, we want them to know that we are truly interested in them. That’s what brings them back week after week, semester after semester. I think it’s what allows us to have God conversations that they want to participate in.”

I met several students who come by every Wednesday—for a cookie and to continue their conversations. Some just want to talk, appreciating the love and concern. Others have entered life-transforming relationships with Jesus.

What about you? What questions would you ask?

Find out more about Ask Mom Now here.

C2015 Judy Douglass




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What to Wear as a Child of God: Love

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:12-14)

 Japanese wedding cup-love

Last week Steve and I had the privilege of meeting in our semiannual gathering with the leaders of five other ministries to students. We talked at length about the divisive issues that face us today as we share the gospel.

One of the women asked me what I thought would be the key to breaking through to the hearts and minds of students. My answer: Love. “What will that look like?” she asked.

I think it is the life of Jesus lived out tangibly. We do what he did at the beginning of His ministry: “Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:14-15)

We also take to heart Jesus’ words announcing His ministry: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”f (Luke 4:18-19 from Isaiah 61:1-3)

Jesus didn’t separate His ministry into proclamation gospel and social action gospel. He preached the Kingdom of God, he healed the sick. He called people to repent, He fed the hungry. He challenged people to “sin no more” and He offered mercy and grace. He called his disciples to holiness and He touched lepers. It was all love in action.

He went even further: Love God, He said, and others as yourself. Love as I have loved–laying down my life for you. (Luke 10:27; John 13:34-35)

Paul affirms the same emphasis. He has encouraged us to put on the clothing of Jesus: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness. And then he adds: And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

When Steve and I got married we were given a traditional Japanese wedding cup, like the one pictured above. Inscribed on it were the words from our verse above: Love binds them together in perfect unity.

Our friend who gave it to us explained that the concept of binding together was explained by the Japanese “obi.” The obi is the sash that holds a kimono together. The wedding blessing on the cup was that love would hold together all that we had committed to each other.

In the same way, Paul indicates that love is the “obi” that binds together all that Christ has called and empowered us to be. Are we naturally full of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness? Not so much. But love motivates us, equips us, empowers us and moves us to action.

Love is the final and essential piece in the beautiful wardrobe Jesus always wore and has bequeathed to us. As we put on love—the life-sacrificing kind of love Jesus lived—we will find ourselves increasingly clothed in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness.

This exquisite apparel will captivate the hearts and minds of those to whom we proclaim the gospel of Christ’s love, mercy and grace. And of course will be perfectly befitting of our Savior’s Bride.

What about you? How are you living out the love of Christ?

 C2016 Judy Douglass

Related post; What to Wear as a Child of God: Forgiveness




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Gratitude for a Grievous Gift–Redbud Post

I love being a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and am honored this month to have an article in The Redbud Post. The November theme is one of my favorite topics–gratitude.  And I love telling the story of how God gave me a grateful heart.

power of gratitude

My phone rang at 2 a.m., jarring me awake. I had been asleep for two hours in my hotel room, 1,000 miles from home. Not again, I thought. Which will this be—hospital or jail?

It was jail. My son was calling to tell me it was all a mistake; he shouldn’t have been taken to jail and could I help him with bail. And so I faced one more event in a long and challenging journey.

Ten years before we opened our home as a foster shelter to a 9-year-old boy who had been taken from his alcoholic, drug-addict mother.  With slight trepidation, we were excited about the privilege God was entrusting to us. We were sure this boy was a gift from God.

The next years were not easy. The neglect and abuse he had experienced overshadowed everything we did for him. Fetal alcohol syndrome Keep reading…




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