- TABLE OF CONTENTS
- WAR ROOM -
STUDY - MORAL
ISSUES - KING
JAMES BIBLE - CULTS
HELPING THE POOR
A Moral and Biblcal Issue
By David Norris and Steve Van Nattan
David Norris's Article
Dear bro. Steve
Thought you would like to read my latest piece.
A word of warning
Now and then requests seem to be suspicious and we are always cautious. There is a Nigerian scam in black market Bibles run from PO Box numbers particularly from Benin City - a hive of illegal activity of all kinds and a place to avoid. (Such scams are not confined to Nigeria and continual vigilance is required, Ghana is another place where care is needed.) Such scams are fairly easy to sniff out when sense rather than sentiment rules and there are generally some fairly obvious signs that something is not quite right.
One certain give-away is the use of the same box number or email address under a number of different names. (I have two such requests in front of me right now and I suspect we have already encountered at least one previously.) Utmost care and rigorous crosschecking is needed, imaginary pastors with non-existent churches make heart-rending requests. Some are very credible and play on our desire to be helpful. Certainly, no credit card payments for Bibles should be accepted from countries like Nigeria. Even when only a few Christian organizations here in the West respond to the requests sent out by these fraudsters, it means that they can sell thousands of free Bibles or Bibles obtained by fraud for a large profit on the black market to help finance their other illegal activities, at the same time damaging the legitimate Christian bookseller by undercutting sales.
This wicked trade has the unfortunate side-effect of the refusal of genuine requests received alongside them. Wherever possible we send out parcels of Bibles only to bona-fide contacts and Churches whom we know and where we know there is real need. Otherwise we send just single copies at the request of individuals. Even here the cross checking of addresses is important. We do check out all requests as far as we are able. Nevertheless, we know one slipped though the net, and this served to alert us to the bigger problem. Since then we have been more careful. This downside to Bible distribution ought not to deter us in the prayerful and careful distribution of the authentic Word of God.
We need to remember that God's Word is still God's Word and we continue to pray that whatever journey each copy makes it will end up in the hands of someone who will read it. Rather we open up our hearts than we close them. Better to be known as 'soft Joe than hard Harry' said C. H. Spurgeon when told that the 'down and outs' coming to his door were taking advantage of him. The abuse of our generosity by the few ought not to be allowed work to the disadvantage of the many. It is but another ploy by the enemy of souls to limit the spread of God's Word. We need to be careful, use known channels wherever possible, carry out thorough checks, use a bit of good sense when reading letters and emails - if it looks dodgy, it probably is. Many Bibles we know have gone into the hands of grateful recipients who have then sent us a letter of thanks. We shall try to put updates on our news page from time to time.
A word of admonition
Thankfully, there is still in the UK, Canada, the USA and other parts, a solid core of God's people who are unending and sacrificial in their efforts to spread the pure Word of God around the world. Many of them have generously provided us with Bibles, a good number brand new copies. However, there is still something that really bothers me. I am deeply saddened when I come across the all too common apathy and indifference towards the need for Bibles manifested by many who profess the name of Christ. Not that they need necessarily to support us, we could not cope with much more anyway, but they do very little to support any Bible distribution. When they do so, it is only in conjunction with the expansion of their own narrow sectarian interests. It is said that Richard Baxter, the godly puritan pastor of the parish Church of Kidderminster, reduced himself to poverty in order to provide his flock with Bibles and books on which to feed their souls, such was his devotion to Christ. Today many evangelical Christians appear to value and emulate the personal economics of Richard Branson rather than those of Richard Baxter.
It is not the possession of wealth that is so condemned in Scripture, but the hoarding of it, stashing it away, failing to put to good use that with which God has blessed us. It is the love of money for the sake of obtaining the fripperies of this present evil world that is the blight sapping the strength of so many and robbing them of the peaceable fruit of righteousness. It reduces the preaching and worship of God to a mere performance, an empty children's game imitating the real thing. "How is the faithful city become an harlot!" (Isaiah 1:21). How must these vain pretensions trouble our heavenly Father, how must He be weary to hear them.
We are told that Christian must live and witness in the context of the culture in which he or she lives and so we cannot give the appearance of being poverty stricken. There is some truth in this. All too often, however, such sentiments are merely a cover for self-indulgence and indolence. Any commitment to spreading the Gospel is only considered after all other financial contingencies have been met: a new car, although the old one was still serviceable; a foreign holiday we do not really need; and so on. All done just to puff ourselves up in the eyes of others. We are prepared to make any sacrifice, mount up almost any debt, simply in the competition to keep up appearances. Such appearances are part and parcel of being members of a respectable church. (Brother, I cannot join your church my car is too old!)
According to the warnings of Scripture, no one ought to think we are too poor. Where we judge the suitability of prospective church members by the size of their bank balance, we will often live to rue the day we did so. "Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?" (James 2:4). Where any longer can the believing humble poor find a place? It is hardly surprising we hear few sermons in our churches from the epistle of James. It makes for very uncomfortable reading.
"Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?" (James 2:5)
Many of these things would perhaps be sustainable (-why should we not enjoy the benefits of our labours?) were it not for the evident underlying materialism and self-love, the mindless obsession with things of no value. The Bible Society can have our jumble, have our leftovers, all that is surplus to our requirements, that which we do not miss when gone. Give them your used tea bags! Many local evangelical churches in Britain have shrunk to becoming little more than gathering places for non-swearing, good living, lower middle class families sharing common interests, where more often than not true Christian devotion comes pretty far down on the list of priorities. I speak as I find and praise God for the exceptions.
Most people seem to live their lives through a series of trivialities. Things which are of little real significance are magnified to be the centre of our existence. Surely, as believers, we treat those things we need to live our lives on earth as being such, but placing real value upon those things that yield treasure in heaven.
Those who do not know the value of the Bible themselves will not see it as something of importance and of value to others. That which we have never lacked is rarely valued for what it truly is. Its very commonplace diminishes it in our eyes. Valerie, whose family suffered severe deprivations as refugees in Germany in the aftermath of World War II, cannot bear to this day to see any food wasted or thrown away. She often says, what we need is a famine (Hungersnot!) to bring people to their senses. Were we to be deprived of our Bibles - and God forbid that this should be so - perhaps some would place greater value upon them. Somehow, I feel it would make little difference. Those who have no hunger for the bread of life now would show little desire then. Such hunger needs the touch of God. Some are hungry, but they know not for what.
Right now as we sit down to a meal of plenty whilst many starve, let us not be ashamed but give true thanks to God for His undeserved goodness and pray He will forgive our ungrateful hearts. Let us also spend and be spent that others may taste those words that are sweeter than honey and then rejoice with us with thankful hearts.
Poverty can be defined quite narrowly, easy to do when we live with a surfeit. Does someone lack food, shelter, water? Then they are physically poor. Do they lack the means to buy a simple copy of the Bible? This too is poverty. Much, if not all poverty is man-made and self-inflicted, wars, poor agricultural practice, corruption in high places, false religion that deters economic development. Exploitation is not to be denied, nevertheless it is only a small part of the story. For all that, we should be inclined to sympathy rather than smugness for we have all sinned and have no claims upon God. It is of His mercy that we do not likewise perish! Charitable appeals often seek to engender a feeling of guilt towards third world countries, in the case of Britain towards our former Empire, and in this way it is hoped to persuade us to reach for our cheque book.
It is said to be the fault of rich countries that these countries are now poor. If they are sick and diseased, it is said to be our fault for being healthy. If they are starving, it is again our fault for having plenty and too much. Generally poverty is measured by making comparisons and defined in relative terms. What do these people possess when compared with us. Giving away everything we have only makes everyone poor and reduces us all to a position where no one can help anyone.
Church history, should the Lord tarry, will record the demise of evangelicalism throughout the course of the 20th century. As a movement, evangelicalism today is dead and dying, retaining only the name. The name remains but the company is under new management offering a new product. Genuine Gospel testimony is at a premium, although thankfully there are still those who remain faithful. There are plenty preaching another Gospel that is not another (although most cannot see that it is another and will make vigorous protestations) from bibles that are but a shadow, and at their worst are a warped perversion (eg. NIV!) of the authentic Word of God. We only send out the Authorised Version (KJV). One recipient from the Philippines wrote and thanked us for sending a Bible that 'was easy to read'! Let those who think the AV outmoded and hard to read chew that one over. Many will protest that they are sending out bibles. Too true! Sadly, in keeping with the new evangelical gospel, much is done to distribute new bibles that reflect the new message.
A word of encouragement
In these matters we need a faith that works not an empty profession that promises much and does nothing. We are saved by faith without works. We make a boast of this and compare ourselves with those struggling in vain to gain their salvation through their works. Despite this, according to the Scriptures faith that does not issue in works is a dead faith and not one that saves (James 2:18). If we truly see Christ as our only Saviour, then we shall unfailingly trust Him and live for Him. All too much of what passes for faith is mouth without any substance behind it.
See more of David Norris's thoughts at www.authenticword.co.uk
Steve Van Nattan's Thoughts
When we were missionaries in Ethiopia we had to deal with the beggars in the street. There were beggars in Kenya and Tanzania, where my wife and I grew up and were later missionaries, but that was a fraction of the beggar situation compared to Ethiopia.
There was no shame in being a beggar in Ethiopia, and one was born to be a beggar. Beggars could improve their situation, but it took many years, and the effort could easily result in no progress in the end.
So, beggars accepted their fate. In the city of Addis Ababa there were thousands of beggars on the streets. In Kenya the British had taught the new government that beggars are a distraction and must be shipped out of the city. This was often done in lorries in the morning, and the fate of the beggar was not good.
In Kenya, the latent British notion of fair play entered, and in an almost comic twist, the most gruesome poor, with limbs missing and blind eyes running with infection, were given an allotted street corner as a sort of stake or possession. They were housed in horrible conditions outside the city, and lorries would drop them at their allotted corner in the early morning. A cut was taken from their proceeds of the day to maintain them with room and board. Occasionally, some Muslim merchant, as an act of alms, would allow a beggar to sit at the door of his shop and beg.
So, in Kenya and most British colonies, after independence, the beggars had to become street criminals or starve. Mugging and burglary in Nairobi are virtually out of control because of the official policy against the alternative of begging.
So, we noted, when we arrived years later in Ethiopia as missionaries, that the cultural pattern that was a thousand years old looked a lot like it must have been in the days of Jesus. If one did not give to the beggars, one was spoken of as a "felagee", one who holds onto his wealth to a fault. It was only the second most evil sin in Ethiopia. Insulting a man openly was the most evil sin in that culture.
We found that some of the senior missionaries became hardened by the beggar situation and avoided giving if they could. There were a large number of beggars who were said to beg all day, and then they went home to a perfectly good house, changed into party clothes, and went to a cafe to eat. That is disconcerting to be sure. And, if you looked at them on the street corner begging you could not tell the fake beggar from the truly destitute beggar. Even the Ethiopians could not tell who was the fake.
Dr. Peter Cottrell, London Bible Institute, came to Ethiopia with Sudan Interior Mission and was there long before we were. He was a deeply thoughtful brother, though a bit less narrow than we liked. But, Peter was a rare combination of a very scholarly man and a very compassionate men. The best of the British tradition.
During some orientation classes for us new missionaries, Dr. Cottrell gave a session on generosity and the culture. His conclusion was, "I would rather give to ten beggars and find that only one of the ten was really in need, than not give at all." But, Dr. Cottrell also had a method for dealing with the thing. He would buy easy to eat food, like bread, fruit, and boiled eggs, and he would make up bags of food. He would then go out in the streets late at night and drive slowing by all the bus kiosks where the real beggars slept the night away. He would stop and give a bag of food to the beggars and tell them that the food was given in the name of Jesus Christ, and give them a few words of comfort and the Gospel. Virtually NO fake beggar slept at night at a bus stop.
This was safe because of the culturally secure nature of a beggar's life in Ethiopia. The brutal consequences of a career in mugging and robbery (hang next Saturday in the market place) made the streets of Addis Ababa so safe that it was safer on the streets late at night for a lady than for a man. There was NO excuse for a missionary to say they could not be sure they were giving to the real poor. Needless to say, Dr. Cottrell's reputation for compassion became well known in the city, and he had some amazing tales to tell of choice moments as he helped people. God seemed to hand him the best blessings for his zeal.
We ourselves were bothered about the street boys, thousands of them, who ran the streets begging during the daytime. Many were fake and were sent to the streets by parents who were not poor but coached their sons to get some pocket cash. We came up with a plan which was based in our own parents' methods as missionaries. In the morning, before we headed out to the shops and doing our rounds, we bought a quantity of Italian torpedo rolls (which do not go stale), bananas, and oranges. The real beggar kids never saw these things and often ate from garbage bins, or left overs from various homes.
When we stopped for a traffic light at an intersection the boys would race to our open windows and start repeating a line in poor English, "No fazer, no mozer, hungry today." The custom for Ethiopian business men was to hand them each a coin, and then the mob would race to the next car to see if they could nab two coins per light change. There was NO way to distinguish the fake from the real beggar boys.
When I picked up an orange or banana or bread roll, most of the boys would race off to the next car. But, two or three boys would be staring at the orange with a look on their face that I will never forget. An orange to an Ethiopian beggar was like caviar in Charles Dicken's London. It did not exist in his life. When we handed the banana, orange, or bread to the boy, he would thank us and then begin to devour the thing while he stood there and totally forgot about begging.
Brother, the memory of those boys' eyes when we handed the fruit to them is priceless to me. We always said, "Sile Kristos" or "b'Kristos sim", "because of Christ", or "In the name of Christ" as we handed them the bread or fruit. There were times when the boy would take the fruit and bow almost to the ground, when he heard the name of Jesus, before devouring the fruit. Can there be a better way to be salt in this world than to draw out of a rumpled ruined kid a little reverence for Christ?
We had to travel by bus for some time before we finally were able to buy a VW. When traveling by bus in the Third World, there is no schedule. You go to the bus station in the city, and there will be short lines of busses, maybe five, over and over across a huge parking area. You find the line of busses which are marked with your destination. The first bus in a line will be the next to leave, and you must get on, pay your fare, and wait until the bus is full. It usually is not too long.
I was on a bus waiting in Addis Ababa one day, and while waiting, beggars would climb on the bus and walk the aisle accepting coins. A boy climbed on the bus leading an old blind man. The man spoke softly and politely of his plight and pleading for mercy in the name of Gabriel or Mary. Beggars in Ethiopia are very articulate, and it is well known that some of the best Amheric, the national language, is spoken by beggars. They are respected for this and rewarded with both coins and courtesy.
A man down the aisle handed over a 50 cent piece and asked for change. No one resented this since 50 cents was traditionally more that a beggar could expect. The beggar made change for the man and gave him copious blessings in the name of Mary and Gabriel, the favorites in the Coptic church to call upon for blessing. The boy came to me, and I handed him a dollar. The boy handed it to the beggar who was used to feeling coins all day. He jerked to attention and asked how much change I wanted. I told the man he should keep the dollar, and I told him the gift was, "sile Yesus Kristos", "because of Jesus Christ."
The beggar went into a major event of praise to God, using very clipped explosives like the Coptic priests use in worship services, and he called down every blessing a beggar has the right to call down on me. Even people outside the bus turned to see who was being given all the heavenly attention. The very satisfying thing was this-- up until the beggar arrived at my seat, as every other passenger handed him a coin, they were blessed in the name of Mary and Gabriel. After I told him I was giving to him in the name of Jesus Christ, almost all the blessing he called down on me, my sweet wife (who was not present), and my wonderful children (who were not there), were in the name of Jesus Christ. He caught my distinction, and graciously went with my zeal. Again, salt! That beggar may not have spoken the name of Jesus in months, but being a Coptic, he at once knew that I was appealing to higher authority, and he respected that.
All this for only one Ethiopian dollar, which is worth 50 cents US! Bill Gates could not pay enough to get a memory like that.
Brother, it is FUN to do good. It brings a person immeasurable delight to see a truly poor or hungry person's eyes light up at the gift. And, in a city like Addis Ababa, as one walks the same path many times, a favorite beggar would become someone to watch for, someone who watched for you, someone to stop and chat with and exchange news and concerns. The beggar becomes a real person, and that is the sort of person Jesus came to seek and to save.
I had to respond to your letter, brother Norris. We have had experiences during our life which almost no one understands today if we talk about them. Your experience sounds so much like what we experienced, though with you it is Bibles, and with us it was bananas. The principles are the same right around the world. May we never let our hearts sour as we travel the narrow way. I find the narrow way tends to be one of battles with the wicked, and soldiers who have seen the heat of battle can become impatient with imperfect people who seem to be at the opposite end of the social structure which exalts the warrior.
When the Bismarck's soldiers went home from the battle, they were to wear their uniforms all the time. The Prussian people respected soldiers above anyone in society, and the Bismarck himself was on a horse at the front of every battle. The soldier was a man of caution and compassion when he went back home. He knew that if he offended anyone, it was an offense in the name of the Bismarck and Prussia. Dare we offend any, for they may well feel that they are being offended in the name of Jesus Christ?
James 3:2 (KJV) For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.
In Ethiopia there are thousands of Coptic Church priests who drift about during the day with nothing to do but make their way from breakfast to dinner and finally sleep. They move about the city, and they use their brass cross which they all carry to great advantage. When they get into a taxi cab, they reach over and let the driver kiss the cross, and that is considered payment in full. When a beggar extends his hand for alms, the Coptic priest generously bends over and lets the beggar kiss the cross. We need to examine ourselves. Are we using the cross of Christ, passing out tracts, giving verbal blessings, even stopping to pray with the needy, and then do we leave them hungry or hurting, walking away as if we have discharged all our duty?
Deuteronomy 15:11 (KJV) For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.
1 Samuel 2:8 (KJV) He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S, and he hath set the world upon them.
Psalms 14:6 (KJV) Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the LORD is his refuge.
82:3 (KJV) Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.
Proverbs 17:5 (KJV) Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.
Proverbs 19:1 (KJV) Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.
Let us apply this verse to jack boot big mouthed preachers who are full of boasting but short on giving.
Proverbs 21:13 (KJV) Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.
I believe the day is coming soon when right wing jack boot political Fundamentalists will cry and not be heard.
Proverbs 28:11 (KJV) The rich man is wise in his own conceit; but the poor that hath understanding searcheth him out.
We learned that you cannot fool an Ethiopian beggar. They know all the tricks of the fat and the rich.
Proverbs 28:27 (KJV) He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse.
Proverbs 29:7 (KJV) The righteous considereth the cause of the poor: but the wicked regardeth not to know it.
When I hear a group of men, standing in the foyer of a Fundamental church, talking about lazy Blacks and these women in the ghetto who have babies just to get ADC, I know I am listening to bastards of no brain. They have not spent five minutes of their life in a ghetto, and they don't know one Black preacher from the city. The really idiotic asinine one is to hear a white trash slob talk about "lazy Mexicans." Only a Mexican illegal can walk, bent over 90 degrees only at the waist, and pick cucumbers all day long in 120 degrees in the sun. Lazy? Right-- the white lazy fool who is judging those poor Mexicans who have to work in the sun in Yuma, or Mama and the baby back in Sonora will starve. They walk the aisles of WalMart with their eyes down because the white fool glares at them while he walks to the produce department to get the one dollar head of lettuce the Mexican picked. BAH
2:5 (KJV) Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world
rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love
I marvel at the Fundamentalists who elected George Bush, who oppresses the poor, while he and his rich friends also have us in bondage at the gas pump and by ripping off our life savings via the Federal Reserve. It takes a crass benighted fool to see the rich snobs above as a sort of Evangelical rescue squad of the Lord's Church. Bush, who blathers and blusters about Jesus Christ, flips the middle finger at the press. He exalts Islam as equal with Jesus Christ. Ah, but these church foyer fools lift him up, while they degrade the poor and blame them for their own problems.
2:9 (KJV) And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived
the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands
of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
Are we "forward" to remember any poor person? Prove it.
Luke 19:8 (KJV) And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.
If this old boy had gotten saved in a Fundamental Baptist church, the preacher would have rebuked him and told him to give that half of his wealth to the building fund. This is why these preachers teach tithing and give out offering envelopes. They want to make sure that the saints do not start helping beggars and poor people on the street and in Bangladesh.
Thanks, brother Norris, for the challenge and for your zeal on the narrow way.
In Christ Jesus
Steve Van Nattan
Nairobi-- one million people in one slum-- the world's biggest