Neither Poverty Nor Riches by Greg Albrecht

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Friend and Partner Letter from November 2014

Here in the U.S. the month of November includes a nationally mandated Day of Thanksgiving. If you are one of our Canadian Friends and Partners, you already have memories of your Thanksgiving Day observed on October 13.

Thanksgiving celebrations usually center around expressions of gratitude for physical blessings. Thanksgiving observances often involve filling ourselves with physical food, but as Christfollowers we are far more thankful to God for filling us with his grace and mercy.

Of course, the physical blessings we enjoy do cause us to stop and consider the plight of others in our world. Our hearts break and we are sobered when we consider the mind-boggling hunger, impoverishment and pain that envelops the vast majority of this world:

• Today 1% possess one-half of the total wealth of the world.

• The gap between the rich and the poor is illustrated by the fact that 85 of the richest people on earth own as much as the total wealth of 3.5 billion of the most impoverished.

Until I am otherwise informed, I believe I can safely assume that none of you, our fellow Friends and Partners, are among the 85 richest people on earth! However, God has not only lavished his grace in and on our lives, but the vast majority of us have more than enough physical blessings, when compared to most people in our world. At this time of Thanksgiving, the vast majority of our world cannot and will not enjoy a turkey dinner with all the fixings.

Regardless of our physical circumstances, most of us who join in the ongoing work of CWR/PTM, compared with the average person on earth, are more than “adequately” provided for. In The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz claims that beyond “adequate subsistence” additional wealth has little impact on happiness in life. He notes “you find as many happy people in Poland as in Japan, for example, even though the average Japanese is almost ten times richer than the average Pole.”

Excess does not guarantee happiness – on the other hand, many examples of excess we see in our Western world lead us to conclude that having “too much” may lead to misery and unhappiness.

Two things I ask of you, LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. – Proverbs 30:7-9

Let us give thanks that most of us have neither poverty nor riches. We have “enough,” and while we cannot solve all of the desperate poverty and disease in our world, we are thankful that there is no spiritual gap between the rich and the poor in the kingdom of heaven. God does not show favoritism (Romans 2:11). All are invited and all are welcome at the table of the Lord. We are assured that in some way, beyond our ability to assess, count or compute his generosity, our loving heavenly Father has/is/or will make himself known to all, regardless of their circumstances.

Let us give thanks at this time of Thanksgiving that we may proclaim, both individually and through the collective work of CWR/PTM, the precious message of the Bread of life, the Great Physician, the one and only true Healer – our Savior, our Lord, who alone is the Answer for all of the pain, heartache, emptiness and misery faced in our world today.

Let us give thanks that God cares and that he is not limited to our efforts to make him known, but he is able and capable of making himself known to all men and women. God is not an exclusive God who only cares about those who are members of the “right” religious institution. He does not confine his love to those who memorize the “right” creeds and parrot back the “correct” dogma. In Jesus, God reveals his inclusive nature – he loves the tax collectors who are reviled, the prostitutes who are condemned and the lepers who are despised!

Let all of us, as Friends and Partners of CWR/PTM, give thanks that our precious Lord allows us to be involved in an ongoing work through which spiritually disenfranchised, alienated men and women may receive meaningful spiritual nourishment.

As co-workers in this ongoing work, we are thankful that we, having been rescued from our own spiritual bondage, may now participate in helping those who’ve also served time in religious hell holes know of the love of God which passes all understanding. We are thankful for God’s grace which reaches down and enables us to pass on that same grace to spiritual refugees everywhere.

You and I are indeed blessed and privileged to be actively involved in a vibrant, dynamic work of God’s grace, proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to a spiritually parched, hungry and thirsty world. We are blessed in being able to collectively offer our prayers and pool our financial resources to go forward, to make a difference and to impact the lives of people all over this world.

Let all of us, as Friends and Partners of CWR/PTM, give thanks for our work God has given us. We have a cause and a goal that transcends this physical life we lead – this mission in which we are blessed to participate is truly important and vital.

Together we sail into the seas of this world, with Jesus as our captain, prepared to endure storms with him at our side. Together we sail with confidence, knowing the vital importance of our mission. We not only sail, but we are building a ship that Jesus is allowing us to participate in building. God has graciously filled us with the spiritual vision that 1) brings us together, 2) keeps us together and 3) motivates us to work together:

If you want to build a ship, don’t herd people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the immensity of the sea.
– Antoine De Saint-Exupery

May each and every one of us continue to long for the open sea of God’s kingdom, the wind of the Holy Spirit filling our sails, the taste of the salt water on our tongues as desperate voices on the horizon cry out for help, energizing us to continue our
journey, seeking to serve others in Jesus’ name.

Our mundane day-to-day tasks must be fulfilled – there is always work to be done, prayers to be expressed, friends and family to serve, doctor’s visits to take, bills to be paid, repairs to make – but we have a sublime goal that reaches far beyond the here-and-now!

While some of us battle the ravages of getting old(er) and the diseases, disabilities and indignities that come with age, we must never forget the advantages of having the spiritual vision that comes with experience.

Ingmar Bergman once said:

Old age is the climbing of a mountain. The higher you get, the more tired and breathless you become. But your view becomes much more extensive.

With Paul, we look forward to our mission with hope and thanksgiving:

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:13-14

Our past is indeed a prologue – our past is part of what makes us who we are. But in Christ we know that our past does not hold us hostage and therefore we look forward more often than we gaze into the rear-view mirror.

Once again, thinking of our collective work at CWR/PTM as being somewhat like a ship that is sailing into the horizon, with Jesus as the captain of our salvation, we remember that he is the Light who illuminates where we are going, as well as shining a light on the waters behind us so that we might always know that our work together is meaningful and necessary, well worth our efforts and sacrifice.

We look forward, longing for the immensity of the sea, and the riches of God’s grace about which no eye as seen, no ear has heard (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Giving thanks with you and for you,

Greg Albrecht

Letters to My Friends

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