How a Peruvian Girl Showed Me How Poor I Was.

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I am Journaling Through Revelation Here in Tampa Bay

 

I think I’ve made an interesting observation, at least to me. The church of Smyrna, which receives no rebukes, thinks that it is poor but is told it is rich.

I know about your suffering and your poverty—but you are rich! Revelation 2:9 NLT 

Later, Laodicea, the only church that gets nothing but rebukes, thinks that it is rich, but is told it is actually poor!

 You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. Revelation 3:17 NLT 

Reminds me of my mission trip to Peru about ten years ago. We came from America to help hold meetings in several churches in Chiclayo. Many of the churches had no roofs, and seemed to be made out of tin. We pitied them and gave them our projectors and other equipment they could not afford. We thought they needed what we have. But they had many committed, passionate members. Their lives revolved around God and His church. They even took turns sleeping in the church every night to guard it from thieves. They held meetings in their homes. Whenever they were not at their regular jobs they were out working for the church. We had 1,000 baptisms after our meetings, and while the missionaries from America took all the credit, the real credit belonged to the local Peruvian church members who were studying with people in their homes, and inviting them to church and the meetings.

When we first arrived at our hotel in Peru rather late on a school night, we were greeted by about a hundred Peruvian Pathfinders. I approached one girl, about 14, who understood English. I told her how nice it was for them to welcome us. I tried to give her some money for her group of friends to get some ice cream. Kids in Peru don’t get sweet treats like American kids do every day. She smiled, almost laughing, and told me “no thank you.” They did not need any treats. They were just very excited that we were here in her city to hold meetings, so the people they were working with could get to know Jesus better. He reward would not be ice cream. The reward she was desiring, was to see her friends get baptized in our meetings!

I thought I was a rich man offering a poor girl somethings she needed. But when she smiled and almost laughed at my offering, telling me how excited she was that we were in her city to talk about Jesus, was there was such a beautiful glow in her smile and gleam in her eyes the most skilled cosmetic surgeons in Beverly Hills could never recreate. I walked away with all my money still in my pocket, not feeling like a rich man anymore. I realized she did not need what I had. I needed what she had!

Confessions of a Rich Bible Worker

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.  They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity. Acts 2:44-46 NLT

As an extremely rich Bible Worker I would like to speak out today on a social issue. It seems we have more and more conservative Christians ridiculing the liberal Christians for wanting to help the poor. In the posts that I read from these conservative Christians, they assume all poor people are lazy, and thus do not deserve help. This is a misnomer. They also assume all rich people are hard workers who have earned every cent they have, another misnomer.

They forget that when the landowner in Matthew 20:7, asked the people why they had been standing around all day, it was not because they were lazy but “They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.” They also forget that in Daniel 4:27 King Nebuchadnezzar was greatly humiliated because he refused to take the prophet’s advice to “Break from your wicked past and be merciful to the poor.” They also forget Nebuchadnezzar was greatly humbled when he took credit for his riches! “‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’Daniel 4:30 NLT

Before I go any further, let me explain why I call myself a very rich Bible Worker. First of all, I am filthy rich, not just because I have a car while 91% of the earth’s population has no car. It is not because I have a nice clean home while millions are homeless. According to over a billion people walking this earth, I am filthy rich because I have access to clean drinking water!

I am also a rich Bible Worker, because my church, the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist church believes in supporting its Bible Worker with a fair salary. They also provide me with full medical benefits. I know many Bible Workers who do not make half of what I do. A few years ago I was actually offered my own church with a pastoral stipend position out west, but I turned it down because it would have been a huge pay cut. Why take a pay cut for a bigger headache? Many Bible Workers do not have benefits or their own place to live. Since I am well taken care of, after my tithe and local giving, I often send money to help other Bible Workers who are not being supported anywhere as well as I am. Why do I say this? Isn’t our giving supposed to be in secret? Yes it is. But while we live in a world of conservative Christians thinking they have earned everything they have and that all poor people are lazy, I want to share why I give to other Bible Workers. The reason? Because while many of them are doing a much better job than I am, they are not getting paid anywhere close to what I am! In order to be fair I feel I need to share some of my blessings that have been given to me. God has given me a wonderful working situation in South Florida. I have not earned it! Here are a few things we need to understand.

While God has been blessing the Tampa First Church with many baptisms and church growth over the last several years I have been here, it does not mean I am working harder or better than anyone else. I am in a fertile field. There are Bible Workers you have never heard of because they can’t afford their own website or computer to post their experiences, but they are working long hours on hard soil.

A while back after I baptized a couple of my Bible study students, an elderly lady walked up to me, and said, “We can see by these baptisms you have been working very hard.” Granted, I have. However, there are Bible Workers out there working twice as hard as I am but without any baptisms. They are working in hard places where the soil is not fertile and the financial support is weak. I would be crazy, and the laughing stalk of angels, if I thought I was getting paid more or getting baptisms because I was working harder and doing a better job than anyone else.

Please understand I was not always a rich Bible worker. Well I guess I was because I always had clean drinking water available, but I didn’t always have a great salary. There were times I was really struggling. There were times a certain church did not have the money to pay me, but I still put in the time, and spent my own gas money and paid for my own supplies, and at the end of the month I was in debt, because the money for my pay did not come through. There was also a time I sent my car to be repaired by a brother in the church so that we could mend fences, but instead of fixing it, he destroyed it leaving me without a car or money to get one, as he refused to give me my money back after destroying my car, by what the other mechanics said was a “gross and deliberate error.”

Still I survived and made it through thanks to those who knew the situation, and understood I was a workman “Worthy of his hire” and not just some lazy charity case. Sure, I also sought part time and sometimes full time secular employment to provide for my needs and even my ministry. Still, I was not a charity case. Speaking to gospel workers, Christ Himself says, “Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve their pay.” Luke 10:7 NLT

Today, when I give my money to Bible Workers who are working hard in hard places, I do not consider it charity. I do not consider it giving my money away. They have earned it. They deserve it. It is not a gift. God has given the money into my hands so that I may pay them what they have worked for and earned.

Some say I should be saving that money for my own retirement instead of helping other Bible Workers. Well you know what? If I end up retiring under a bridge in the Florida Keys instead of a nice Adventist retirement village guess what? There are millions before me who have retired and lived under a bridge, who probably deserved a retirement home much more than I do! I understand the home I have now and the clean drinking water are gifts from God, which I do not deserve, and God can take those gifts away anytime He wants. I haven’t earned a thing!

I’m not bragging or boasting. I am just being real and transparent. Two Thousand years ago the entire church realized they had not earned anything or deserved anymore than the poorest church member. That’s why, “all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.  They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity.” Acts 2:44-46 NLT

So please fellow conservative Christians, please stop calling all poor people lazy. There are poor people who deserve a lot more than they are getting, and a lot of rich people like me who haven’t earned a dime!

Before I go, I would like to thank those who have supported the Bible Worker in all the places I have served over the years, and for supporting other Bible Workers around the world! I will be thanking you throughout all eternity!