Our lives are often struggles. We search for meaning and have desires. Some of these are self-prompted, others from the divine spark inside. We look to God as a guide, wondering if we will find what we’re looking for. Paul sensed this same struggle and urgency in the Thessalonian Christians and penned words that still resonate today.
“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith” (2 Thessalonians 1:11 NIV).
Paul could see far beyond his life. He looked into the future and saw a day when Jesus would return—to make all things right and new (2 Thessalonians 1:6–10). He looked beyond his life and held onto something eternal. This changed absolutely everything.
Paul desired that the Thessalonian Christians would share his perspective. Jesus had called them to something truly extraordinary: to be a beacon of hope in a struggling world. But this hope was not rooted deep in themselves; it wasn’t about finding themselves. It was about finding their calling in Christ Jesus. It was about finding the divine spark of Christ and embracing it.
Jesus is at work in our lives. He is working in us to bring about goodness for this struggling and hurting world. Rather than look at the despair of our world and merely cry, we must look at the pain and ask God to use us for good.
God is working in us to bring about goodness. He is faithfully prompting us to take action on his behalf.
The eternal perspective of Jesus’ return should prompt us to stop and look around. It should prompt us to ask how we can be people who bring mercy to the hurting. It should prompt us to love. It should prompt us to do good. It should prompt us to ask God to change us, to make us more like him—so that we may love better and more fully.
Prayer gives us divine perspective. Sometimes that is in a word from God. But more often, we experience in prayer the deep rooted sense that God is present. God is with us. God is working is us, even now, to make us worthy of the calling that he has placed upon our lives. Take that hope with you today. Take that hope to prayer.*
Enjoy this article? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live the currency of love.
*This article is adapted from my previous article, "An Eternal Perspective on Our Prayers."
Bihar, India is experiencing heavy rains and flooding again that is bringing with it major devastation. And the next few days look like they are only going to bring more rain.* Bihar is where the Jesus' Economy sponsored church planters live and work.
More than 100 people in Bihar and the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh have died due to the heavy rain and flooding over the past few days. The rain has affected normal life as everything from roads to hospitals to schools to homes are partially under water. Railroad transportation has also been stopped due to the flooding.
Many districts in Bihar are facing severe flooding threats as rivers, including the Ganges River, are flowing above the danger mark. Rescue workers have been called in to rescue people from flooded areas. But with 104 Million people in Bihar alone, with over 50 percent of the population already living below the extreme poverty line, even a large disaster response effort will not be enough.
To make matters worse, the people of Bihar are still recovering from the last heavy rains and flooding. Please join us in praying for the people of Bihar.
Pray the rains would stop and the rivers wouldn’t overflow.
Pray that the rescue workers would have the resources and help they need to rescue people.
Pray that the hospitals would no longer be under water so they can help people properly.
Pray that loved ones will be able to find each other and know whether they are safe.
Pray for God’s grace and protection for the people in Bihar.
*The photos in this post are from the flooding earlier in the season in Bihar, India.
Heavy rain over the past couple of weeks has led to extreme flooding in Bihar, India. Bihar is where our sponsored church planters live and work; several of them are directly affected by this flooding. Many of these photos were taken by one of our sponsored church planters, who himself lost a family member in the flood.
Our partners in India informed us of this disastrous flooding that has affected 7.2 million people and hundreds of villages. People have been forced to leave their homes and stay with family and at impromptu shelters. 97 people have been reported dead and dozens have been injured according to Bihar's state disaster management department. That number could go up as six rivers are flowing above the danger level and continue to flood.
Many of the shelters that are housing people don't have running water and electricity. It's also a four to five hour wait for gasoline and there isn't much food available. These factors compounded with dealing with the loss of loved ones make it hard to function and have hope.
Pray for Bihar, that the rains will stop and flooding will come to an end.
Pray for those who have lost loved ones in the flooding, that Jesus will heal the broken hearted.
Pray for those injured by the flooding, that their wounds will heal.
Pray for the relief and rehabilitation work.
Pray that God will be people's constant companion in these times of need.
Pray that God will move in his merciful power to meet needs and protect people.
Pray for our church planters, that God will give them the words needed to help heal and comfort those affected.
Today is World Day of Prayer, "a worldwide, ecumenical movement of Christian women of many traditions who come together to observe a common day of prayer each year, and who, in many countries, have a continuing relationship in prayer and service." World Day of Prayer "promotes justice and equality for women through prayer, partnerships, service and celebration." These are principles that we at Jesus' Economy full heartedly affirm.
Here at Jesus' Economy, we believe that God can do all things through prayer (see our article, "Prayer that Causes Earthquakes"). Since the founding of Jesus' Economy in 2012, we have kept a prayer request list and asked you to join us by praying. Like the World Day of Prayer movement, we believe in empowering women. Business opportunities, especially for women in regions that are oppressive for women, are the key to that empowerment.
Today, we ask you to join us in praying for two things:
We believe that through prayer, anything can happen. God has provided a grand vision for Jesus’ Economy and we need to join in prayer to make it happen. Thank you for joining with us in prayer, especially for the women around the world who need the empowerment of business opportunities.
Jesus’ Economy is dedicated to ending poverty, and through our work in Bihar, India and our partnerships with fair trade artisans, we are making progress. But we need your help. Please pray with us as we continue to work.
Sometimes prayer can feel like a cop-out that takes away the need for action, but this simply isn’t true. Action is necessary, and there are many ways we can physically fight poverty, but let’s not negate prayer in the process of doing God’s will.
Poverty is not God’s plan for the people he created, and that means we should do all we can to end it. While donations and purchases at the Fair Trade Shop all work toward fighting poverty around the world, the power of prayer can too. So pray with us. Pray with us if you don’t have the ability to donate or buy. Pray with us, also, if you do have the ability to donate or buy, because your prayers are valued, too.
Pray that God will use us in Bihar, India. Pray that the artisans we partner with will be blessed. Pray for hope and for poverty to end.
We believe that through prayer, anything can happen. God has provided a grand vision for Jesus’ Economy and we need to join in prayer to make it happen. Partner with us in prayer; let's watch God work together.
Global catastrophes sadden us. The images are terrifying and experiencing such moments in history are deeply painful. Why does God allow this to go on? Is God causing it? Where is God in hurricanes and pain? Here are some answers that make sense biblically.
When God first created the world, he pushed back the chaos. He brought order where none existed. This is what much of Genesis 1–2 is about. This is why God’s focus at the beginning is the sky and the waters. He is pushing back the madness. He calls doing so “good.”
When God’s will is connected to natural disasters in the Old Testament—like the flooding of the earth—God is not happy about it. It’s a last resort. It means God letting his own work be undone. He isn’t causing the big disasters in the Old Testament; he is moving out of the way of the disasters that would be present otherwise. He wants order, not the chaos of storms. The storms sadden God. (Why destroy what you created? God wouldn’t want to destroy his own creation.)
God reaches his last resort in very distinct moments, like when an entire city has turned away from righteousness. This was the case for Sodom and Gomorrah, where not even ten righteous people could be found (Genesis 18:32–19:29). This was also the case for the flooding of the earth—only Noah and his family were found to be righteous (Genesis 6–8).
I know righteous people in the areas affected by Harvey and Irma; you probably know plenty of righteous people there too. If we do the math and run the probability of God causing all this, the answer here is pretty clear: God doesn’t want this. Instead, it’s caused by the chaos that still exists in the world. This type of chaos has been present ever since people went against God—ever since the fall of humankind with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). Chaos was reintroduced into the world on that day. But there is good news in the midst of this sadness.
When Jesus came, died, and was resurrected, the very fabric of the relationship between people and God changed. Likewise, the relationship between people and the out-of-control creation changed. (Chaos took a serious blow.) Paul describes it this way:
“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves … as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22–23 ESV).
Creation awaits the full redemption of Christ, just as our very bodies—which are currently subject to death—await that redemption.
Jesus brought full reconciliation with God the Father to humanity. And one day all of creation will experience the full meaning of redemption. We have signs of this already in the acts of Christ.
Jesus calmed storms (Mark 4:35–41). Jesus walked on water (Matthew 14:22–33). Jesus talked about how to build spiritual houses that would withstand storms (Matthew 7:24–27). Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, which empowers us to do his work (John 14:15–31). We are able to look into the eye of the storm with hope because we know what is to come.
Pain and turmoil still exist because Jesus has not returned yet. Peter puts it this way:
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise [of returning to earth] as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:10 ESV).
It is because of God’s great mercy that Jesus has not returned yet—because God wants to see many people come unto salvation. This is also why we have not seen creation completely redeemed.
When we experience great catastrophes in our world, it’s easy to doubt God’s mercy. It’s easy for us to look to God and place blame on him. But remember that one day new creation will come to be, when Jesus returns. Every tear will be wiped away and chaos will be completely put to rest. Death itself will end on that day (see Revelation 19–21).
Please pray for those in the midst of the chaos or recovering from it. Please pray for the chaos to be pushed back. Please pray because it matters. It can change things.
And take action. Support and encourage those living in the eye of the storm. Show them your love. You can even volunteer to help people rebuild. Or you can give fiscally to the relief efforts. There is power in God’s people coming together to fight back against the chaos. It shows that we believe that chaos won’t win.
This article is adapted in part from my older blog post “Is God Angry at the East Coast?” published on ConversantLife.com.
“When you give … do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matthew 6:3). This saying epitomizes the mystery of Jesus’ sayings. What does Jesus really mean by this saying?
This oft-quoted saying of Jesus comes from the middle of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7). This long sermon is full of parables, proverbs, rebukes, and commands. The Sermon on the Mount, in many ways, functions as the center of Jesus’ practical teaching—his teachings about how Christians should live. Thus, when we attempt to understand any one part of it, we must ask ourselves: What does Jesus want to teach us, practically?
Jesus opens this particular section of the sermon with a caution:
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1 ESV).
There are some people who only do good when it can be seen. Their goal is to be recognized for their generosity. We need look no further than the monopolizers, Rockefeller and Carnegie, to see an illustration of this type of giving. Rockefeller and Carnegie were even in a competition for who could give the most—who could out philanthropize the other one. But their efforts were not merely about giving; it was about empire building. They were trying to create lasting legacies in their own names, so that they could live forever in the annuals of history. And it worked.
Does Jesus’ rebuke mean that the philanthropic labors of Rockefeller and Carnegie were in vain? Certainly not. There are many great things in our world that only happened because of the generosity of Rockefeller and Carnegie—whole non-profits and institutions owe their start to Rockefeller and Carnegie.
But where is the reward for efforts done for the sake of recognition? They are left right here on earth, where they occur. Jesus makes clear that those who seek recognition get their reward here, not in heaven. Their reward is the praise of other people. Jesus elaborates on this, saying:
“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward” (Matthew 6:2 ESV).
Thinking of local Jewish leaders of the Pharisee and Sadducee party, Jesus uses the analogy of someone sounding a trumpet before giving to the impoverished. He could be alluding to some regular practice at the Jerusalem Temple. Jesus could be recognizing that most people made a very big deal about their giving. Without recognition, the wealthy likely thought they would lose some (perhaps even all) of the benefit. Jesus calls this type of behavior hypocritical. But why is it hypocritical? Answer: power.
Those who give out of a desire to be recognized are really seeking popularity. And popularity is a tool of power. If people believe you are generous, they are likely to be more trusting. And if they trust you, they will do business with you. For many wealthy people, this is why they give—respect of peers and their local community. Most often they give out of guilt (expectations) or to seek respect (power). And neither reason for giving aligns with God’s priorities.
Furthermore, giving is often a method of expressing power. If I supply for another person’s needs, especially when being recognized for doing so, the person I give to will feel indebted to me. At the very least, they will be forced to compromise some dignity in accepting my charity. Thus, for Jesus, the setting of giving was critical. He understood that all these things could be involved in the giving process.
This does not mean that giving done in vain is useless to God or his work. It can still be used for great good. But there is a better way. In this regard, Jesus says:
“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:3–4 ESV).
For Jesus, it’s all about intent. This is his concern. But does this mean that we should never give publicly? Does it mean that we should never tell the stories of those who give? What about the stories of those who receive? To answer these questions, the next section of Jesus’ sermon is enlightening.
Jesus’ view of prayer, which is explained in the next section of the sermon, is very similar to his view of giving (Matthew 6:5–8). He explains that prayer should be done in secret. Yet when it comes to prayer, we know that Jesus does not intend for us to merely pray in secret or to merely pray the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:6, 9–13). We know this because Jesus himself prayed publicly (e.g., John 11:41–42). And we practice public prayer, just as it has been practiced for thousands of years (and is reflected even in the book of Psalms).
When we read Jesus’ thoughts on prayer, we know that he is providing us with a model, a modus operandi. He is telling us that the majority of our prayers should be private—that we should seek an intimate relationship with God the Father. He is also telling us to be careful why we pray—to watch our intentions.
The same is true of Jesus’ view on giving. Intent is the guiding principle (see 2 Corinthians 9:6–7; Micah 6:8). We must ask: Why are we giving? When we expose our giving to others, why do we do so? When we tell the stories of the impoverished being empowered, why do we do so? Are we ensuring that each step is done with dignity, honesty, and for the right reasons? Are we seeking God’s glory or our own?
Our guiding principle should be giving privately. While we will at times make exceptions to the principle, we must only make exceptions for the sake of God’s glory and ministry. It must have a larger purpose and intent in mind. And we must continue to glorify God whenever recognition comes.
We must also trust God with our giving. Rather than contemplating the loss of funds, we must trust God with our donation to his ministry. We must watch the intent of our heart and make sure we are in a place of generosity. We must give out of a desire to do good for others and to glorify God in the process. This is Jesus’ way.
We all struggle with vocation, calling, and purpose. Life is confusing and often dissatisfying. Clarity is our desire. But what if we’re making all this far too complicated?
Overthinking can unnecessarily complicate life. But a lack of focus on our inner life can also oversimplify life.
We should be serious about questioning the meaning of our existence. It’s only in being so that the great innovators and philosophers have had significant breakthroughs. We must look inside ourselves to examine what’s lacking, what’s working, and where we’re failing. We should desire more out of life and ourselves—always.
Yet, if we spend too long staring inward we will lose sight of what is right outside our door. There is beauty and truth in nature itself (compare Romans 1:20). By staring inward, we can miss that entirely. And many epiphanies come through conversation, so we also cannot sell short the value of other people in our lives.
This reminds me of the psalmist who says, “Behold, you [God] delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart” (Psalm 51:1 ESV). Yet, there is a Proverb that says, “Reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge” (Proverbs 19:25). The Bible envisions us learning from others, but also having a diligent and serious inner, spiritual life. God teaches us in secret and in public.
We cannot change the world without first being changed ourselves. As someone who spends a great deal of my time trying to alleviate extreme poverty —a huge problem to tackle—the scope of the work often overwhelms me. The problem is so big that I often lose perspective and begin to despair.
But prayer has a powerful way of keeping everything in check. I find that if my prayer life is in check—meaning it is consistent and driving my daily decisions—that everything else falls into place.
When we look up to God, and then look back down here at what he is doing, we remember. We remember what everything is about—why we do what we do, and who we really are. We can then lean on Jesus. This is why the Apostle Paul told us to pray—in all things, all the time (Philippians 4:6; Ephesians 6:18).
The South African pastor Andrew Murray (1828–1917) once profoundly said:
“It is a duty, for the glory of God, to live and pray so that our prayer can be answered. For the sake of God’s glory, let us learn to pray well” (With Christ in the School of Prayer, page 126).
It is for God’s glory that we are to live and pray. And it glorifies God when we have much to pray about. The answer isn’t to run away from the problems of the world. We should care for the hurting around us—deeply—but do so through prayer. We should tackle the problems of poverty, but to do so through much prayer.
God’s glory is manifest in the answering of our prayers, for the sake of our world.
I think we overcomplicate purpose, calling, and vocation. When it comes down to it, the glory of God is what everything is about.
I regularly have to remind myself of several things. God’s glory is what alleviating poverty is about. God’s glory is what bringing the gospel to the ends of the earth is about. God’s glory is seen in the slice of bread given to the poor beggar and the cup of clean water given to the impoverished child (Matthew 25:31–46). God’s glory is what we’re aiming to show to others—all the time.
God’s glory is seen when we live our lives like we actually believe God’s promises. God’s glory brings perspective to our vocations, callings, and purposes. What are they if they do not glorify him? So question—please. Think—please. Look inwardly—please. But don’t forget the reason. May our prayer today be, “O, my soul, please never forget the reason—for all of it, for everything! God’s glory!”
Our chief aim in life should be the glory of God. Period. Full stop.
We have all experienced suffering. We look for answers. We cry out to God. And we ask him, "Where are you?" In this sermon, delivered at The Bowery Mission in New York City, I tell about my experience with depression and suffering, and what I learned about God in the process. I also share some profound biblical passages about pain and anguish.
On today's Live Your Belief Podcast, Kalene Barry, Chief Projects Officer for Jesus' Economy talks with Victor Momoh, founder of the Sierra Leone branch of Global Missions Africa. His ministry goal is to bring the truth of Jesus to a predominantly Muslim nation and to unleash Africa's potential through the work of the Gospel. Find out how Victor and his team are doing this work. Let the Spirit bless you through their story. Listen below.
Global Missions Africa wants to ensure that Africa is for Jesus. Their pan-African missional efforts aim to reclaim Africa as an inheritance of God's purpose until the Word reaches every nation on the continent. They are currently working in Sierra Leone, Ghana, South Africa, and Madagascar -- ministering the Word, planting churches, training pastors, meeting basic needs, and providing entrepreneurship opportunities. To find out how you can support this great effort, write to Victor at globalmissionsafricasierraleone[at]gmail[dot]com.
Or by mail, write to:
Global Missions Africa, Sierra Leone
7 New Signal Hill Road, Congo Cross
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