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.

The 2019 National Day of Prayer in the United States is today, May 2, and its theme is "Love one another," taking a queue from Jesus' instruction to his disciples, "Love one another, just as I have loved you" (John 13:34). There is no more fitting way to love than being a blessing to the people of our world. When we pray for God's blessing, let us pray because we want to bless.

These prayers make me ask again: What if the American dream could be leveraged to change our entire world? What if the frontier spirit of America had enough tenacity to transform lives around our planet? Americans are blessed so that they may be a blessing. Prayer coupled with action is the way for that to happen.

Blessed to Be a Blessing: A National Day of Prayer Message

On National Day of Prayer several years ago, I delivered a message in Casper, Wyoming about how America is blessed to be a blessing. I discuss the frontier spirit present in people like Henry David Thoreau, the power of prayer, the biblical view of blessing, and how our interconnected world presents us with a unique opportunity to lift people everywhere out of poverty.

 

Is the American Dream Still Alive?

In this keynote address, I discuss how I grew up in the shadow of the American dream in the oil boom in Alaska, raised by parents who are the epitome of the dream itself. I explain what growing up in the frontier spirit taught me about the power of being able to choose your future. I then relate this to how our entire world deserves this choice by telling a story from Bihar, India along the way. I explain how the American dream may not be fully alive today, but that it can be again, and show how that would change our entire world for the better.

American Jobs and Empowering People Overseas

Since part of Jesus' Economy's vision is to create jobs in the developing world, I often get asked, "What about American jobs?" It's a valid question and one I answered in my talk for National Day of Prayer.

I believe that Americans will have even more opportunity as fair trade jobs are created in the developing world. It will give Americans the opportunity to leverage our knowledge of markets, organization structures, and technical information to create work here. You cannot have fashion without fashion designers. You cannot deliver products in the U.S. without shipping facilities here. You cannot create a leading fair trade shop without employing technical people. What if the U.S. and other western countries could be the means to making fair trade work happen? And what if this industry, based completely on empowerment and freedom, was bigger than companies like Amazon and Facebook?

Peace and Creating Fair Trade Jobs Go Hand in Hand

Peace is a beautiful thing. In my talk I also explain that by creating fair trade jobs, we create friends and allies. We eliminate the possibility of exploitation and isolation. When we create fair trade jobs, we create a way for the U.S. to have peaceful relationships with other nations.

I believe there can be win-win-win situations in business, if business is based on Christian ethics. I believe that fair trade commerce creates such an opportunity. What if we could leverage the ideas that built America to make this happen? What if we were to spread the idea of economic and spiritual freedom around the world? Such an effort would create incredible and unwavering hope.*

We are blessed to be a blessing. On this National Day of Prayer, let's pray for that. Think of that as you use this guide for prayer from the National Day of Prayer Task Force.

Also, for regular inspiration, subscribe to the Jesus' Economy Podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.

*This article is adapted from my earlier article, "Leveraging the American Dream to Change the World."

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.

We Believe in the Power of Prayer

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.

Pray with Us for Women Overcoming Poverty

Today, we ask you to join us in praying for two things:

  1. The many female artisans that Jesus' Economy supports through our online Fair Trade Shop. Through fair trade, artisans all over the world are overcoming poverty. Pray that the businesses of the women Jesus' Economy supports may continue to grow, so that they can provide for themselves, their families, and create jobs for other people in need.
  2. The Empowering Women initiative of our Renew Bihar, India campaign. The women empowerment ranking of Bihar, India is .379, making it one of the top ten worst places in the world for women. We have a vision for launching a new stage of business training for women in Northeast India, which includes providing microloans and connecting female entrepreneurs to opportunities to sell their products (especially in our online Fair Trade Shop). The launch phase of the project is currently 56% funded and it needs more support. Pray for the women of Bihar, India and that Jesus' Economy can generate the funds to launch our Empowering Women initiative in Bihar.

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.

Here are some other things to pray for:

  • Guidance, wisdom, and discernment for Jesus’ Economy’s volunteer executives, staff, and board of directors, as they execute the vision of Jesus’ Economy.
  • Entrepreneurs working on Jesus’ Economy fair trade products around the world—that their craft may be developed further and that God may use these efforts to create jobs and better the lives of others.
  • Our four sponsored church planters—that many people may hear the name of Jesus through their efforts. They are bringing the gospel where people have never heard the name of Jesus.
  • Communicating the vision of Jesus’ Economy to churches in the U.S., particularly in the current focus area of Washington state. May God open up hearts to the message and create opportunities for partnerships for God’s Kingdom.
  • Funds to come in the door, so that we may fully realize the vision of the Renew Bihar, India project; renewing hearts, homes, and hope by creating jobs, planting churches, and meeting basic needs.
  • Donations to come in the door to fund our founders' efforts, so that they can continue to serve Jesus' Economy full time. They are currently full-time volunteers but need funding to continue this effort long term.
  • Dollars to be donated toward our operations costs in the U.S., so that we can continue this great work for God’s Kingdom.

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.

God Is Opposed to Storms

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.)

The Harvey and Irma Disasters are Natural—Not Caused

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.

Things Can Change and Improve

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.

Chaos Still Exists Because Jesus Hasn’t Returned Yet

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).

We Can Pray and We Can Act

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.

 

Get more free articles like this one, our daily devotional, and updates: Subscribe now. This long-form article is part of our weekly series, “Living for Jesus.”

 

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.

 

Get more free articles like this one, our daily devotional, and updates: Subscribe now. This long-form article is part of our weekly series, “Living for Jesus.”

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?

Intensive Thinking Is Only a Partial Solution

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.

Earnest Prayer Profoundly Alters Our Perspective

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 Glory of God Simplifies Everything

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.

Calling, Purpose, and Vocation—A Simpler Solution

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.  

Featuring Victor Momoh, Administer at Global Missions Africa: Sierra Leone

About Global Missions Africa

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
Freetown
Sierra Leone 

 

Like our podcasts and blog posts? Never miss a post: Subscribe.  

Imagination is a gift from above. It is imagination that gives us the power to see a slum as a city with paved streets. It is imagination that allows us to see our world as it is meant to be. And it is prayer that unlocks the power of imagination.

The biblical dreamers—like Daniel and John the Evangelist—saw their world not as it was, but as it could be. Daniel’s God-given ability to see beyond the present moment—and God’s faithfulness to answer his prayers—resulted in a king writing to “all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth … ‘I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel” (Daniel 6:25–26). Prayer changes hearts, even the hearts of powerful kings. With the power of prayer, our great God is made known around the world.

Daniel shared his message about his God subtly, mainly through his actions (at least in the beginning of his ministry). By comparison, John the Evangelist shared his message loudly, through writing. Both acts are necessary in our work for God.

John the Evangelist envisioned a better world—where all would be made new by Christ (Revelation 21). John’s message has inspired thousands upon thousands. It is prayer that made John available to receive such a splendid message.

Prayer enables us to imagine our world renewed. Prayer helps us see God’s vision for the world: we see what isn’t yet, but should be.

Imagining a better future for the world can (and should) only happen through prayer. As the leader of Jesus’ Economy, which is dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world, it is my job to envision a better world. With developing world leaders, we at Jesus’ Economy envision what could be (rather than what is). Imagination coupled with prayer should drive this entire process (and really the entire process of our lives).

Right now, I’m imagining renewal in Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world, where few have heard the name of Jesus. Jesus’ Economy is raising funds to renew hope, hearts, and homes in Bihar. We plan to empower 40 women through microloans, drill 18 water wells, train and send out 18 indigenous church planters, and establish a medical clinic for the impoverished. (You can see how we’re doing this here.) But this process, like many things God calls us to, requires diligence and trust; it requires prayer. This is just one example of how God is calling me to dream with him; how is he calling you?

I am sure that you have something (or someone) you’re praying for. As you’re asking the Lord to answer your prayer—living in the in-between of the prayer and the answer—remember its value. Not all investments pay off, but the investment of prayer always does. So although it may feel bleak now, it won’t always be.

Let’s pray together for God’s kingdom to come and for the Lord’s will to be done (Matt 6:7–15). Let’s pray for God’s kingdom to be present in our lives and the lives of people all around the world. Let’s especially pray for that in Bihar, India and among all the impoverished places of the world.

Let’s place our hope in Christ. And let’s imagine the world as Christ sees it—acting upon his dreams of a better world.

 

Love this blog post? Never miss a post: Subscribe via email.