The (in?)sanity of buying a field

I was reading more in Sharing God’s Heart for the Poor, and this chapter really struck me about a passage I’ve read many times but never really understood until now, so here is my comments on it, which will be my last blog about this particular book.

 

Picture this- you are living in a country on the brink of ruin, surrounded by armies that are attacking you.  You have no option to pretend it isn’t happening, as God keeps telling you to tell others that it is happening, and your country will fall, along with a lot of the people.  Everyone’s scared, everyone thinks you’re crazy, no one listens.  You lose heart and hope.

Then God does something really insane.  He tells you to buy land that is now behind enemy lines, land that, for all intents and purposes, is useless to you or anyone who is not the invading army.  Your cousin owns it and wants to dump it off on you- you’re the crazy prophet right? Maybe you’ll actually buy it- to get a little money.  And he asks full price for it, to add insult to injury.  And God tells you to buy it!

So what do you do?  You buy it.  Add to the rumor mill of your need for padded walls….

So, the million dollar question is- just WHY does God want you to buy this worthless land?  What’s the point- he’s already told you that you’re going into captivity, with no promise of you personally coming out alive. Why does He keep making you look so foolish?  And, at the root of it, what does the purchase say about God?

It’s all about redemption.

And worth.

And trust.

The land is seen as worthless, but is sold at a premium because it had value to the buyer- and the real buyer was God, who told Jeremiah to buy it.

The land is seen as a dead end, but it is sold under a long-lasting contract, as a long-term investment in life.

The land is seen as something unobtainable, yet the deed is placed where it will last for a long time- until the time that it is obtainable again.

 

Now change the land into a person.

Who the world sees as worthless, a throwaway, God sees as very very valuable and spends everything to obtain.

Who the world sees as a dead end, beyond repair and too broken, God invests into for their whole life, seeking to heal.

Who the world sees as too closed and hurt to ever be touched, God works on slowly, over time, until they can finally open up and be touched by Him.

I’m ashamed to say that often times ‘the world’ includes Christianity.  But, everything God does really does look foolish.  As a good friend of mine says- God really does have a massive sense of humor.  So having a heart of compassion, to see the real value, often times is the ability to step out and look foolish.  And that’s where the trust part comes in.  Trusting that God will make good on His promises of restoration and love.

Just something to think about.  You can read the story here, or look it up and find the surrounding verses too…  J

 

Jeremiah 32:8-17 NIV Now it happened just as the LORD had said! My cousin Hanamel came to me in the courtyard of the guardhouse. He said to me, ‘Buy my field which is at Anathoth in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin. Buy it for yourself since you are entitled as my closest relative to take possession of it for yourself.’ When this happened, I recognized that the LORD had indeed spoken to me.  9 So I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel. I weighed out seven ounces of silver and gave it to him to pay for it. 10 I signed the deed of purchase, sealed it, and had some men serve as witnesses to the purchase. I weighed out the silver for him on a scale. 11 There were two copies of the deed of purchase. One was sealed and contained the order of transfer and the conditions of purchase. The other was left unsealed.  12 I took both copies of the deed of purchase and gave them to Baruch son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah. I gave them to him in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, the witnesses who had signed the deed of purchase, and all the Judeans who were housed in the courtyard of the guardhouse.  13 In the presence of all these people I instructed Baruch, 14 ‘The LORD God of Israel who rules over all says, “Take these documents, both the sealed copy of the deed of purchase and the unsealed copy. Put them in a clay jar so that they may be preserved for a long time to come.”’ 15 For the LORD God of Israel who rules over all says, “Houses, fields, and vineyards will again be bought in this land.”’  

 16 “After I had given the copies of the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah, I prayed to the LORD, 17 ‘Oh, Lord GOD, you did indeed make heaven and earth by your mighty power and great strength. Nothing is too hard for you!  (Copied from theword.net Bible software)

 

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Can You Smell What I’m Baking?

I love to bake and decorate cakes and other pastries.  I love the processes of designing, watching all the ingredients come together in the mixer bowl, baking it and watching it rise in the oven, molding and forming the cake and frosting into whatever my design is- or as close to it as I can get!  But, one of my favorite parts has to be the smell.  The chocolate-butter-flour-vanilla-fruit-warm sugar smell of cakes and pastries. The whole process would just be much flatter and uninteresting without the smell. In fact, I can spend all day baking, get it all cleaned up and put away, and my husband can still tell, just by the smell in the kitchen that I have been baking.

Similarly, as Christians, we are called to have a ‘smell’.  And we all do- either a good one or a bad one.  A smell is either enticing or off-putting.  And what is our smell?  It is our heart- what we are doing to others- the light that we are showing to others.  The sweetest smell of a dish happens when it is put in the oven.  That is where the chemical transformations take place; where the individual ingredients are changed and made into something new and wonderful.

And we must go through the oven to really have a good smell.  We must be willing to step out of our comfort zone to help someone else; to give sacrificially of our time and lives, in order to complete the change within us; in order to help us to become what God is willing us to be- a sweet aroma to Him, of Him.

It’s not enough to merely know all the ingredients or have them.  A cake batter does me no good before its baked.  It’s just shapeless goo.

A life where this is wonderfully illustrated is in A Radiance on the Gulag, a book about Nijole Sadunaite- a Lithuanian Catholic exiled to Siberia in the 1970’s for her faith.

“Since Nijole’s suffering became known by various Christian organizations in the West, a large   number of believers knew of her plight.  Consequently, Nijole received many care packages while she was in exile.  Although it was against the law, the Communist guards made her pay to receive these packages.  Prisoners in exile had to work and they received a starvation wage of 75 rubles a month.  Their housing cost 20 rubles, and the prisoners were made to pay sometimes over 45 rubles to accept any packages sent to them.  But time after time, Nijole accepted these packages, paid for them, and then re-packaged them and mailed them to Christians in other parts of the Soviet bloc when she believed where suffering worse than she was.  The Communist guards and postal officials could not make any sense out of this.  It was a kindness and a sacrifice that utterly dumbfounded them.  One time, some girls who were members of the Communist youth organization questioned Nijole about her strange behavior.  Nijole replied that she wanted to help her impoverished brothers and sisters in Christ who were suffering.  And the girls asked her, if we were ever put in jail, and you learned of it, would you send us you care packages?  And Nijole replied, “Of course, if I knew your address.”

That is a beautiful, sacrificial love, an aroma that you know even when you walk into an empty kitchen.  It’s a wonderful, freeing thought.  I don’t have to worry whether or not I have the words to tell someone something- all I have to do it show them love.  They’ll know.  If they want to know more, they’ll ask.

Thank You Jesus for the wonderful example of love You are for us, and for the wonderful aroma You are through us!!!  It is an honor to show Your compassion to others.

Thoughts about Fish

Compassion

True compassion

Is it just giving, or is it something more?

There’s the old saying- ‘give a man a fish and feed him for a day;

teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime’.

 That is true, but is there more to it than that?

What if he hates fish or runs out of fish in his pond?  What then?

 Have you really taught him anything?

Or have you wasted your time, and has he wasted his time, just prolonging

 the inevitable fishlessness and the fight for his existence?

What if there is much more than just teaching someone to do something,

or enabling them to do it once you’re gone?

What if the whole point is to build a relationship?

 

A relationship that is mutually beneficial to you both- you teach him to fish, he teaches you to carve something.  Or maybe he just teaches you to really love and how to open up to others in a new way and maybe he is an amazing person with the coolest background and he is so strong and neat, and, through the process of getting to know him, you learn more about the amazingness of him, and humanity in general.  A relationship where he is your friend, where you can continue to help him build his fishing skills, live on more than just fishing, where he learns how to open up to you and the amazingness of your own story and humanity in general.  A self-sustaining, lifelong investment that builds more than a fish-eating empire.

It builds a friendship.

It builds worth and value and esteem and respect and love.

It builds eternity.

The importance of a single hair

 

Who are the Poor?

Our idea in general of poverty is, not having enough money, whatever your individual view of ‘enough’ is.  But is there more to it?  It’s important to understand the word properly in light of God’s heart for those who are poor…

There are many different words translated into the English word ‘poor’ in the Old and New Testaments.

Among them are-

Dallah (dal-law’) n-f.

1. (properly) something dangling, i.e. a loose thread or hair

2. (figuratively) indigent

lean, needy, poor (man), weaker.- lower class, those who have less materially than the upper class

Aniy (aw-nee’) adj.

1. depressed, in mind or circumstances

afflicted, humble, lowly, needy, poor.- pain of being taken advantage of because in a lower class

Ebyown (eb-yone’) adj.

1. destitute

[in the sense of want (especially in feeling)]

beggar, needy, poor (man).- dependence on someone else just to survive- used often by David to God

Ruwsh (roosh) v.

1. to be destitute

[a primitive root]

lack, needy, (make self) poor (man).- desperately poor, vulnerable to exploitation, unprotected

Ptochos (pto-khos’) adj.

1. a beggar (as cringing),  a pauper

2. (figuratively) distressed

3. (literally, as a noun) strictly denoting absolute or public dependency on charity

{also used in a qualified or relative sense; not just financial distress in private}

[from ptosso “to crouch”]

beggar(-ly), poor- dependent on others to survive- publicly poor.

Pentichros (pen-tikh-ros’) adj.

1. necessitous

KJV: poor (implying, in context, choosing to be poor in order to help or give to others)

SO, we can see that there are many different aspects to poverty in the Bible, and therefore, in God’s eyes.  Poverty isn’t just the idea of not having money, or of not having enough.  It also involves the idea of the mental weight of being unable to provide, the vulnerability and oppression suffered by the poor from those who are not, the public humiliation of it, in essence, the way it affects the relationship of the impoverished to the not-impoverished.  That horrible feeling of being just a individual hair in a huge head of thick hair- who cares if it’s gone?  God does, which is why He speaks so often about carring for the poor…(Pentichros, which is quite different from the other meanings, I believe still comes with the oppression and mindsets of the other words, but also with the grace and lightness of God.  That word is a mindset in constant tension- pulled down by the world’s heaviness, uplifted by God’s calling and lightness.)

So, God is concerned with the feelings of those who are poor, not just the monetarily standing of them.  And He says many times that He stands with them, he desires them protected, and he protects them.    He sees everything that happens to them, and they are never seen as ‘small’ or insignificant to Him.

We are called to do the same- to help all who are poor in any form.  But it is more than just money- it is mental and spiritual- multilayered.  And helping the poor must involve all those areas, otherwise it is not really helping and is merely making ourselves feel better without accomplishing anything truly meaningful to others or God, or, even, to ourselves.

I believe this justifies a welfare system, provided that the help given is multilayered- giving money, AND spiritual help (but not ‘shoving your religion on someone’), AND an emphasis and aid to get out of the current situation, AND honoring those who are served, regardless of sacrifice to your own pride.  This also justifies foreign aid, and all the other things countries and individuals do, provided that it is, again, a holistic thing.   But the real burden for this is on the church, as commanded by God to care for the poor…

What good is it to place a Band-Aid on a wound if the wound is infected and cannot heal?  Wether the Band-Aid is religion or money or friendship or whatever.  We are created by God to need many different things in our lives, and, if we are providing someone else with those, we must give all of those as God makes us able to.

 

God and Charity

I’ve started reading through a new book that I will blog on for a while.  It is called “Sharing God’s Heart For the Poor”, by Amy L. Sherman.  It is a very small book with alot of very short chapters, so, if you are reading or have read it, I will probably not blog on every single chapter as I usually do, but only on the things that really speak to me.

The whole subject of poverty and the complex puzzle of getting out of it have been weighing on me ever since I came back from Haiti, which is why I decided to read and blog on this book (that and I got it free from a friend….)  One of the things I’ve been thinking about is God identifying with the poor- He has it ALL!!!  Sounds like a impossibility!  I know through Jesus He could, but it talks a ton in the old testament about God having a heart for the poor!  So, since that is the first chapter of the book, here’s the first summary and my additions…..

Psalm 146:7he defends the wronged, he feeds the hungry. God frees prisoners—8he gives sight to the blind, he lifts up the fallen. GOD loves good people,9protects strangers, takes the side of orphans and widows, but makes short work of the wicked.

Psalm 72:12Because he rescues the poor at the first sign of need, the destitute who have run out of luck.13He opens a place in his heart for the down-and-out, he restores the wretched of the earth.14He frees them from tyranny and torture— when they bleed, he bleeds; when they die, he dies.

God identifies with the poor, even though He has everything!!!  It’s easy to think- there’s no way God would understand- He has it all!!!  But He does understand in His miraculousness.  He created us, so He knows and understands all that we go through.  He sympathizes with us; He wants us to be cared for and provided.  So He has given each of us the duty to take care of each other- we need each other.  He is the father of all- it doesn’t matter what someone looks like, He is their Father, their advocate.  His heart is for the hurting.

Because we have a duty from God to care for those around us, when we don’t do that, we are hurting not only those around us, but God, and I would argue, our own selves.  As Christians, if we give sacrificially to those around us, we will be increasing our own trust and faith in God, which will enable us to mature just that much better.  So it is not a giving with no return, even if we don’t ever really see the return.  It is a giving that brings us closer to where God wants us to be- with Him, united with His heart.  The help to others is obvious, and also not so obvious.  There is of course the physical benefit of whatever help is given, but there is also much more.  To receive help from someone is to receive the gift of hope, of a feeling of mattering and not being lost in the anthill of life and society, of joy of knowing you are cared for by someone else and are not alone.  That is a priceless gift.

To help others also helps God.  It shows His love, His kingdom.  It shows the beauty of His virtues and heart.  It is not a natural human thing to want to help others beyond a very shallow point.  To fully invest yourself into someone else with no outright return, especially over a long time, is not easy.  It is hard.  We need motivation.  And the only way motivation lasts is through God.  Not that we do it to earn anything from God, but that we do it because God’s voice speaks in our spirit, whispering to us of His love for us and those around us.

That is why we give.