Archive for the ‘Poverty’ Category

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“Blessed are the poor in spirit…”

September 2, 2010

A throne was created deep within the heart of man upon which none was worthy to sit but God. Mankind’s woes began when we forced God from His throne and enshrined in His place were the things which He created  for and to be used by man for good and the accomplishments of God’s purposes upon the earth. The pronouns “my” and “mine” are innocent enough, but their constant and broad use with reference to things is significant. They express the real nature of man’s fallen heart. They are verbal symptoms of our deep disease. God’s gifts now take the place of God on the throne of our hearts and the result is a watering down of the words of Jesus.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23, 24).

Jesus says that it is the “denial of self that saves life”. I believe this is what is referenced by Jesus when He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The blessed ones who will possess the Kingdom are those who have repudiated the external things and have uprooted from their hearts all sense of possessing. Though free from all sense of possessing, they actually posses all things…”theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

One of the great examples of this principle is seen in the life of Abraham. Abraham was an old man when Isaac was born. In fact he was old enough to have been Isaac’s grandfather. Finally the long awaited son he had been promised was born and no doubt became the delight of his heart. This child represented everything sacred to a father’s heart. Wrapped up in him were the promises of God, the covenants, the messianic dream and hopes of years to come. As he watches him grow up into a young man I can only imagine how close he became to his son.  What happens next is beyond our wildest imagination. God shatters the calm and blessed relationship with a command, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Gen. 22:2).

Our inspired scribe spares us the agonizing response and questions that may have come in response to this most unusual challenge. I can only imagine the agony of heart and soul that must have been experienced in coming to grips with God’s will. If only the choice was his to die instead of his son, there would have been no contest, for he is now old and death would be no great ordeal, but God had said, “Take your Son, your only son…”

What is the moral of this story? God allowed this old faithful servant to go through with this intended offering of his son up to the point where there would be no retreat, and then did not allow him to continue. In effect he says, “It‘s all right, Abraham, I never intended that you should actually slay your son. I only wanted to remove him from the temple of your heart that I might reign supreme there with out rival. “…now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

After that emotion filled experience I think the words “my” and “mine” never had quite the same meaning for Abraham. Abraham had a lot of things, but he possessed nothing. Here is the spiritual secret to self denial. Laying up treasure in heaven sounds good, but we fear what we cannot see. It is easy to trust in bank balances, net worth, the next promotion, etc. I think this is the reason Jesus says it will be difficult for the rich to inherit the Kingdom. The poor have nothing of material value to hold on to, but the rich, that is another story.

We must learn with Abraham that everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.

A.W. Tozer said, “If we would indeed know God in growing intimacy we must go this way of renunciation. And if we are set upon the pursuit of God He will sooner or later bring us to this test. Abraham’s testing was, at the time, not known to him as such, yet if he had taken some course other than the one he did, the whole history of the Old Testament would have been different. God would have found His man, no doubt, but the loss to Abraham would have been tragic beyond the telling. So we will be brought one by one to the testing place, and we may never know when we are there. At that testing place there will be no dozen possible choices for us; just one and an alternative, but our whole future will be conditioned by the choice we make.”

“Father, I want to know You, but my coward heart fears to give up its toys. I cannot part with them without inward bleeding, and I do not try to hide from You the terror of the parting. I come trembling, but I do come. Please root from my heart all those things which I have cherished so long and which have become a very part of my living self, so that You may enter and dwell there without a rival. Then You will make the place of Your feet glorious. Then will my heart have no need of the sun to shine in it, for you will be the light of it, and there shall be no night there. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Arewa Aid

December 7, 2007

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The Lord has opened a wonderful door of opportunity for Barb and me, and has given a new direction for our lives. November 17th. I accepted an offer from the Executive Board of Directors of Arewa Aid to become the Development Officer for this 501C3 Non Profit Corporation. Arewa Aid is the support arm for Brad and Jennifer Blake who work and live in Maiduguri, Nigeria. Arewa translated means North, and is a common word used to describe the aired desert region of Nigeria just south of the Sahara.

This is a wonderful opportunity to work with a special couple as they build bridges and open doors to this Muslim area of Nigeria, West Africa. Islam came to this part of Nigeria over one thousand years ago. Long standing, and deeply imbedded traditions of Islam will not be easily over come, but we are beginning to see hearts opened and souls reached for the Kingdom of Christ. If you missed recent posts concerning this work click here, here and here to learn more.

Barb and I will be traveling to Maiduguri, Nigeria , Lord willing, in March of 2008 to see the work first hand. We solicit your prayers as we embark on this new chapter in our lives. 

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2007 Arewa Aid Dinner A Tremendous Success!

November 16, 2007

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The benefit dinner last evening for Arewa Aid was a tremendous success. Two hundred and twenty-five were present to learn about the arid area of northeastern Nigeria where the Blakes live, and 47,000.00 was given for their cause. John Mark Hicks, our master of ceremonies for the evening, introduced us to the need for drinking water in this area, and encouraged us to remember that Jesus said a cup of cold water given in His name would not lose it reward.

 

Through out the evening we learned how Brad and Jennifer are seeking to be Jesus to the Muslims in this area. One of most pressing needs is for a new well to serve not only the drip irrigation farm they have begun, but the water needs of the community as well. Often the water that is trucked in is not used as intended for the farm, but meeting the needs of people who come seeking clean drinking water. The Blakes are not willing to turn a deaf ear to the need of those who come seeking water. Brad also shared a video about, and their burden for, the “Beggar Boys” who roam the streets of Maidugur and many cities of the north begging for food to keep them alive only to beg again the next day. Their only possession is a small bowl from which they bathe and eat. Arewa Aid wants to reach out in a tangible way to these boys by teaching farming practices that can be used by them in their home towns and thus keep them from migrating to these larger cities with dreams that crumble and lead to begging on the street.

Dave Goolsby, from “Healing Hands International”, spoke of his work with the Blakes and how they are a missionary family that has become Jesus to the Muslims of Maiduguri. As Jesus left his home and emptied Himself to become one of us, the Blakes have also emptied themselves to become Nigerians to the Nigerians. They dress in local attire, speak the local language, and three children have been born to them and are being raised there.

One of the highlights of the evening was a phone call interview conducted by Dr. Phil Slate with Jennifer Blake who is still in Nigeria. We learned of the upcoming food preservation workshop to be held in February and the local interest that is building for this special time. All of these humanitarian works are an expression of love for the Muslim people of this desert area. This is not what the locals had expected from this American couple that moved into their midst, and as a result hearts are being opened and questions are being asked. Like the healing and caring touch of Jesus, these programs show how much they care, and thus become the basis for discussing the Good News of Jesus.

Plans are already underway for the 2008 Arewa Aid dinner. Here are some pictures from this wonderful evening.

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DAVID GOOLSBY FROM “HEALING HANDS”

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BRAD BLAKE PREPARES US FOR THE VIDEO ON THE BEGGAR BOYS

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DR. PHIL SLATE INTERVIEWS JENNIFER IN NIGERIA

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5TH. AND 6TH. GRADE CHORUS FROM FRIENDSHIP CHRISTIAN ACADEMY SING WITH BRAD

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THREE MEMBERS OF THE SINGING GROUP “DURANT” PLUS TWO ENCOURAGED AND CHALLENGED US IN SONG

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A FEW OF THE 200 PLUS ENJOYING A MEAL CATERED BY RYAN’S RESTAURANT

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Hendersonville Star News Article About The Blakes

October 29, 2007

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Missionaries to Nigeria put deeds ahead of words

By Candy Webb
For Sumner County

Published: Sunday, 10/14/07 When most Americans decide to do their part to improve the world, they usually choose something that doesn’t disrupt their lives too much. They may give money to an organization to utilize as needed. They may even take a two-week vacation from work to go on a mission trip.When Brad and Jennifer Blake thought about what they could do to help mankind, they took it all the way.For the past six years, the Blakes have lived and raised their children in remote areas of Nigeria, teaching people there how to grow food, save money and other important life skills.

“We believe that you cannot be as effective traveling back and forth as you can be when you live there,” said Brad, who recently returned to the states to raise funds to support the coming year’s humanitarian efforts.

“When you wear the clothing, eat the food, speak the language and live among the people, you can do so much more.”

The Blakes are founders of Arewa Aid, an organization intent on helping the people of Nigeria learn to help themselves.

Although their spiritual faith is what drives them forward, they believe they can reach more people through compassionate acts of kindness, than through preaching.

“We felt like the Lord called us to do this,” said Brad. “We saw so many children dying from poor nutrition, poor health care, lack of parent education, that we believed it was our calling to provide compassionate assistance in the real-life areas those families deal with.”

One example is what Brad refers to as the “Muslim Beggar Boys.”

“Typically a Muslim man there has four wives, and each of the wives has about seven children,” said Brad. “This means the husband has between 35-40 children that he can’t feed, so he sends the boys to the city to learn the Qur’an. ”

According to Brad, the children do study the Qur’an, but also spend 8-9 hours a day begging on the streets to take the money back to their teacher.

“We approached the teachers and asked if we could teach the children about dry-season farming, and they said ‘don’t just teach the students, teach us too.'”

Alhough Muslims and Christians have a long-standing difference in spiritual belief, Brad believes his approach works because of what it provides.

“We try to reach people through acts of compassionate service,” he said. “And if within that service, they seek information about our beliefs, we are more than happy to share our faith with them.”

The farming system being taught involves drip irrigation and allows food to be grown even in areas where water is sparse.

In addition to growing fruits and vegetables, the residents are being taught the importance of saving money through a market women’s program.

Conflict resolution, poverty elimination and human rights are also key goals in the foundation’s existence.

Each year, the foundation adds programs to its repertoire. Next year, Jennifer will teach the women more about food preservation by teaching them how to can, pickle and dry various foods for later use.

The Blakes are committed to staying in Nigeria at least through 2014 and plan to continue expanding the services the foundation offers.

“We want to move from the family-size kits for farming to the supersize kits,” said Brad.

Also included on next year’s wish list is a small stipend to pay a full-time farmer who can live on the farm and teach increasing numbers of residents how to successfully grow fruits and vegetables for sale and consumption.

Deep wells and solar pumps will be needed so the foundation doesn’t have to rely on purchasing water in tanker trucks, as it has been doing.

The Blakes have been providing assistance to a man who suddenly fell ill and is blind and crippled due to the illness. They would like to continue to help him with his living expenses.

There are many items on the list, but the work, programs and training will be provided by the Blakes and their volunteers.

Arewa Aid is a nonprofit organization, and the Blakes hope businesses will join with area churches to help fund its efforts.

“Children over there are not eating any fruits and vegetables, which can cause serious health problems,” said Brad. “Through drip irrigation, they can grow what they need to eat and also have enough to market and begin digging out of poverty.”

While Brad is here seeking funding, Jennifer remains in Nigeria and is approaching hotels as potential vendors.

“She is taking the zucchini around that was grown and giving them each a zucchini and a recipe,” said Brad. “If they can see what they can do with it, they might start buying it from our participants, and it is another step forward.”

For information about Arewa Aid, or to have Brad come and give a presentation about the foundation’s work, call 444-0999 or 615-299-7433. You can also email Brad at bradblake@juno.com
Published: Sunday, 10/14/07

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Irresistible Revolution

July 27, 2007

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“Don’t the Bible say we must love everybody?” “O, the Bible! To be sure, it says a great many things; but, then, nobody ever thinks of doing them.” Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncles Tom’s Cabin.

I am presently reading, “The Irresistible Revolution”, by Shane Claiborne. I had seen a number of reviews about the book, but was moved yesterday to buy it, and it has captivated me since I began reading. From his stories of working with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, to his work with “The Simple Way”, in Philadelphia, I have been challenged to the very core of my being.

Some will consider him radical, and maybe that is the reason for the sub title of the book, “living as an ordinary radical”. But he is more like a gentle prophet who doesn’t pull any punches, but at the same time speaks with love and devotion. Shane attended Eastern College and one of his teachers was Tony Campolo. He said that Tony said, “Jesus never says to the poor, ‘Come find the church,’ but he says to those of us in the church, ‘Go into the world and find the poor, hungry, homeless, imprisoned,’ Jesus in his disguises.” Shane took that lesson to heart. I personally have felt for a long time that our giving to a common treasury that uses a third part to meet the needs of the poor keeps them at arms length and robs us of many blessings. Shane says, “I learned a powerful lesson: We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what he did. We can applaud what he preached and stood for without caring about the same things. We can adore his cross without taking up ours. I had come to see that the great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.” P113.

The consequences of the way we show benevolence causes both the giver and the receiver to miss out on the blessings of the gift. “When the church becomes a place of brokerage rather than an organic community, she ceases to be alive. She ceases to be something we are, the living bride of Christ. The church becomes a distribution center, a place where the poor come to get stuff and the rich come to dump stuff. Both go away satisfied (the rich feel good, the poor get clothed and fed), but no one leaves transformed. No radical new community is formed.” P159

If we were to compare what we as Christians spend on brick and mortar, something Jesus said nothing about, to what is spent meeting the needs of the poor, something Jesus talked about constantly, we would surly hang our heads in shame. Rob Bell said about Shane’s book, “Be warned, my friends: Shane is a poet, a friend, a brother – but underneath it all, he’s a prophet with a fire in his belly and a story to back it up. If you listen – or in this case, read – you will not be the same.”   

I did…and I won’t!