Lessons from Union Rescue Mission

Last Thursday we were blessed to be visited by Rev. Andy Bales and Steve Borja of the Union Rescue Mission. It was an honor to meet them, learn from their experiences, and have them share with us at our Annual Fundraising Dinner. Today, we’ll take a moment to reflect on what was shared at the event.

Rev. Andy Bales is the CEO of the Union Rescue Mission, a private Christian homeless shelter located on Skid Row in Los Angeles that shelters 1,300 guests every night. His love and care for those experiencing homelessness is inspiring, but he readily admitted that he isn’t perfect!

Andy shared a story of when he was a teacher and gave a sermon to his classes on Matthew 25, hoping to deter them from bullying a classmate. The main take away from this lesson was Matthew 25:40, And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: whatever you did for the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ Unfortunately, when a short time later he was presented an opportunity to live this out, Andy missed the chance.

He’s not alone, we’ve all missed moments when we were given the opportunity to live out our mandate “to care for the least of these.” Fortunately, those moments don’t define us or our ministry. We can learn from our mistakes and move forward, just as Andy has, continually renewing our heart and mind (2 Corinthians 4:16).

Steve Borja, the Vice President of Programs for the Union Rescue Mission also shared valuable stories and lessons for our community. Using valuable insights from the book of Nehemiah, he encouraged us in our efforts to work with government, city officials, businesses, churches, and others to accomplish our work in caring for those experiencing poverty. The wall of Jerusalem wouldn’t have been rebuilt in 52 days without partnership. It took the King of Persia to make sure Nehemiah had safe passage and was provided materials. Working on the wall there were priests, nobles, officials, goldsmiths, perfumers, guards, temple servants, and merchants each with different portions to work on.

It doesn’t matter our title or income when partnering to do the work of God. We are stronger together, but only when we remember whose power and authority we are under. When we collaborate, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of honoring ourselves, but the honor is due to our God. “The wall was completed in 52 days, on the twenty fifth day of the month of Elul. When all our enemies heard this, all the surrounding nations were intimidated and lost their confidence, for they realized that this task had been accomplished by God.” Nehemiah 6:15-16.

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Seek the Peace & Prosperity of our City: Jeremiah 29:4-7

Today is our Annual Fundraising Dinner and our theme for this year is, “seeking the peace and prosperity of our city.” To honor our theme, today’s post will be over this passage: Jeremiah 29:4-7.

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

This passage was written to encourage the exiles to make the most of their situation instead of believing the false prophets telling them their exile would be a short time period. In verse 10, the Lord says that they will be in Babylon for 70 years, so they might as well make themselves at home there!

We’re not exiles, but we’re still in a temporary earthly home, waiting for the Kingdom to come. This can sometimes make us feel discontent, longing for a better life, not wanting to endure any current suffering. Since we weren’t made to stay in our earthly home forever, it can seem like we’re out of place and that we don’t belong. This may makes us want to shrink into our own bubble of fellow believers, trying to stay in our comfort zones until we make it through this life.

God calls us to a higher way of living though, to fully integrate into where we live now. We are to become a part of the fabric of where we live, praying and seeking what’s best for it, making the most of our time there. May our deepest hope be that those we live among will see how we live and ultimately accept Jesus Christ as their Savior, reconciling them to God.

How we are expected to live in this world is also reflected by Peter when he was writing to encourage persecuted believers in Asia Minor:

11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority, whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:11-17

May we live this way today.

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What the Bible says about Poverty: Galatians 6:9-10

Welcome to the last blog post in our series “What the Bible says about Poverty.” We’ve journeyed through several passages, some easy and some more challenging, but today I want to leave you with some words of encouragement.

(9) So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. (10) Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith. Galatians 6:9-10

Poverty is a very complex issue, yet our politics tend to oversimplify the root cause on one of two extreme ends of the spectrum: personal responsibility or unjust systems.  The reality is, it’s often both as well as the consequences of adversity like diseases or natural disasters. 

As there is no easy explanation of cause, there is also no simple solution. This is why working with someone experiencing material poverty can be so messy, exhausting, humbling and overwhelming, but it’s also mandated. People are broken. At some point when we work with someone in poverty, they may let us down and make mistakes, but so will we! Be encouraged, keep God in the middle, and keep working for the good of others.

Let‘s allow God’s word stir us to keep working our way through this complexity to help someone else, to think beyond just ourselves. Let’s care because God cares about the vulnerable and commands us to seek justice for those suffering and in poverty. In verse 10 we are told to care even more for those who belong to the same household of faith. We are each part of a biological family, and those ties run deep, but we also live among our adopted brothers and sisters in Christ, who we are all called to love and care for. 

In a culture of individualism and independence, it’s sometimes hard to feel like family with other Christians. Our current society looks quite different than the community of believers described in Acts 4:41-47, where believers were singing praises to God and breaking bread together, but let’s use it as an example and strive to have this type of love for our fellow believers.

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What the Bible says about Poverty: Psalm 9:9-10

Hello everyone! We’re nearing the end of our series on “What the Bible says about Poverty”. If you haven’t read the other posts in the series, make sure to catch up!

(9) The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. (10) Those who know Your Name trust in You because You have not abandoned those who seek You, Yahweh. Psalm 9:9-10 Whether you’re the one experiencing poverty or the one walking alongside someone in poverty, keep God at the center of this present crisis. It’s no secret that God cares for and delivers the poor, that He is our strength when we have none (Isaiah 25:4, 1 Samuel 2:8, Psalm 102:17, Hebrews 13:6).

Even though we may know His power, it’s easy to get caught up in the present crisis and forget to take time to give our problems to God. I read some really great advice recently, if you’re feeling discouraged or unsure about where God is in your life, put your trust in God’s character. God’s character is true and we know that God has proved that He is faithful and doesn’t abandon those who trust and seek him. Looking back at all He’s done, there’s ample evidence that He rescues those who are oppressed. (Daniel 6:27, Isaiah 43:14-19).

Prayer, seeking God, laying down our burdens at His feet; these are all things that should be part of any solution to material poverty. We’ve never been told we will have it perfect and easy in this life; we live in a fallen world. This doesn’t mean He isn’t present during our trials and that we can’t call on His name to move the mountains in our life. Strive to keep God in the middle of your crisis, when life feels like a whirlwind, let God be your anchor.

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