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Mercy

Mercy is undeserved favor and grace. God has shown great mercy to sinners who accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. How do we offer mercy to those we serve?

Who is Your Neighbor?

How do we love our neighbors as we love ourselves? That’s a complex question, and the answer plays out differently for everyone, but it requires that another question be answered first, “Who is my neighbor?”. Jesus encountered this exact question, from a lawyer, in Luke 10:25-34 (The Parable of the Good Samaritan). The lawyer was asking the question to determine, "What people can I exclude from the list and how can I limit my responsibility?"

Jesus responds with a story and a question back to the lawyer, which destroys his expectations and is staggering in its scope. Jesus shows him (and us) that anyone in need is a neighbor, and that the Samaritan in the story, who sacrificially helps a wounded stranger and shows mercy, has loved his neighbor as himself. Jesus then instructs the lawyer "Go and do likewise." What a challenging mandate! How do you love your neighbor as yourself? Please leave a comment below to let us know!


Categories: Devotionals, Mercy Tags:

Mary's Story

We received a call about Mary, a middle school principal, recovering from surgery to remove glioblastomas (brain tumors which are usually highly malignant). There were several situations around the house that were adding to her stress. A leak in the roof, causing mildew stains on a section of wall and ceiling in her bathroom, was her chief concern. The problem was isolated to one area, a fairly steep section of the roof over the second story.

Mary ministered to us more than we did to her. What an example of simple trust in the Lord's love for her, and even with her diagnosis/prognosis, was resting in His grace and mercy. After praying with, and being encouraged by her, we set a day the next week and replaced an area of rotted roof decking, reinforcing and shingling to complete the repair. Mary was almost speechless with gratitude for the help.

We need your help to serve more people like Mary. HRM is projecting to complete more than 220 projects again, for the second straight year, as well as serving 104 households and over 200 people (estimate). Can you help us provide that level of support, for low-income and hurting homeowners like Mary, by making a generous year-end donation to HRM? We need raise $130,330, by December 31, to help us stay on track to complete 231 projects, and reach two hundred+ people with Christ's love, in 2017. Hitting our funding target will also put us on strong financial footing entering the new year.

Make a year-end donation

Categories: Mercy, Project Stories, Why We Serve Tags:

Connecting the Two Great Commands

I’ve heard it said that Christianity is simple, but not easy. That’s a very profound truth. You can boil the essence of the Christian life down to two commands:

1) Love God with all you’ve got.

2) Love other people as you love yourself.

Serving an Elderly HomeownerThat’s a paraphrase of an answer Jesus gave to a question posed by religious leaders of His day (Matthew 22:34-40), and there is a lot of important detail which goes behind each of those commands. For now, we'll just look at the "50,000 foot level". Here are two important principles - following the first command is often (but not completely) achieved by living out the second command, and caring for the hurting, marginalized and oppressed is a big part of fulfilling the second command (see Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25 for more).

That should be an encouragement to those of you who are involved in service ministry, tying together Word and deed to minister to people who are hurting. That's right in line with the second command. If you're interested in some ideas for how to serve people in your community, please leave a comment below or send us an email. We'd love to connect with you.

If you do already have a service ministry, would you share some of the ways in which you help people in need? Just leave a comment below.



Categories: Devotionals, Mercy, Ministry Impact, Service Tags:

The Mercy Mandate

I love God for His mercy - His undeserved forgiveness of sins and unfathomable offer of a relationship with Him, to those who put their faith and trust in Jesus. God’s mercy is the reason HRM exists. In fact, we are called a mercy ministry, but what is our mercy supposed to look like and what are God’s expectations of us?

There are many passages in the Old Testament that provide guidelines for mercy. Some seem obscure in the digital age. Israel was told to leave “gleanings” (leftovers after crops are harvested or which ripen late) for the poor or alien (a refugee, perhaps?), whom the farmer was to let enter his field. It was an early form of social welfare, and it wasn’t technically a gift to the poor. It was a requirement of God’s Law.

Deuteronomy 15:4 says, “But there will be no poor among you; for the Lord will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess...”. In verse 11, there seems to be a contradiction, “For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’” (ESV) I take these verses to mean, God will provide us the resources, so we should go and find the needy, and help them in a way that improves their prospects for the future. In the New Testament, Jesus equates our walk with Him, in part, to how we treat and serve the poor and marginalized. (Matthew 25:31-40).


Categories: Devotionals, Mercy Tags:

Loving Your Neighbor Through Home Repair

Helping Hurting HomeownersPeople with a high view of scriptural authority have often been strong in word ministry but "not so strong" in deed ministry. This has often bothered me, because our example, Jesus, was mighty in word and deed (Luke 24:19). So, that is why we think a church with the capacity and with interested people should be out there helping hurting people stay in their homes.

Coming from the other direction, just fixing houses isn't enough. If the work does not address a person's greatest need, redemption from sin, we haven't "loved our neighbor as ourselves". One reason I like home repairs is that people are inviting us into their homes. We're not selling anything, and by the way, "Do you understand why were are helping you? We're telling God, 'Thank you', for redeeming us from sin through Christ, alone".

Isaiah 58 talks about ending religious posturing and getting practical enough to help real people in real need. Verse 10 says, "if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday." Our world desperately needs such light.

How about you? Does your church have someone who loves to fix things and could start a team (it can start very small)? Our ministry exists, in part, to help you start or grow your team. You'll find a wealth of information in the resource center and ministry library. Sign up now at no cost!



Every One a Story

There can be a dangerous side to goals for a service ministry. It's easy to look at a major milestone that’s been hit, and think something along the lines of, “YES! We completed 10 more projects this year!” Those can be very exciting moments, and represent something really good, but they can also send us down a wrong path.

Why? Not just because of pride, which is always a threat, but because we can tend to look at the numbers and not see the people behind them. Even in ministry this can be a challenge. But the truth of the matter is, it’s loving people that God cares about (and loving Him!), and every person a ministry serves has a story. They’re all unique, and many of them are fascinating. That's certainly true for our ministry!

Meet:

  • A single mother, suddenly raising five kids alone after a divorce, needing a porch screen installed to protect the youngest son, who has Down’s Syndrome
  • The senior couple tied up in court because of housing code violations, desiring help to avoid fines they can't afford
  • The mother of two young children, valiantly supporting her husband with ALS, and trying to find an easier way to get him in and out of the house
  • A faithful single mother of two adopted sisters with cerebral palsy, looking for relief for her back from carrying one of the sisters, who is in a wheelchair, up the stairs into their home
  • The widow with the tender heart, whom we have helped with repairs before, calling to ask for advice to help a man scheduled to get out of prison
  • A Palestinian widow with no insurance and devastated by a tornado which ripped into her house and through two cars, looking for help recovering from the disaster
  • A lonely man, who just lost his wife, in desperate need of help in the yard to tear our a rotten wooden pool deck, along with some other work on his deck


That’s just a few of them. It’s a blessing to be able to serve all the people we do and show them God’s love, and to be able to share why we are serving - because God didn't just look at us as a group of hopeless, sinful rebels, but personally offered up His own Son, Jesus, to every individual who puts their faith and trust in Him.



Home Repairs - The Gospel in Word and Deed

People with a high view of scriptural authority tend to be strong in word ministry but "not so strong" in deed ministry. This has often bothered me because our example, Jesus, was mighty in word and deed (Luke 24:19). So, that is why we think a church with the capacity and with interested people should be out there helping hurting people stay in their homes.

Harvey and JohnnyComing from the other direction, just fixing houses isn't enough. If the work does not attempt to address a person's greatest need, redemption from sin, we haven't "loved our neighbor as ourselves". One reason I like home repairs is that people are inviting us into their homes. We're not selling anything, and by the way, "Do you understand why we are helping you? We're telling God, 'Thank you', for redeeming us from sin through Christ, alone".

Isaiah 58 talks about ending religious posturing and getting practical enough to help real people in real need. Verse 10 says" "...if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday." Our world desperately needs such light. Can your church bring some light to a dark world? We have some no-cost resources for churches and organizations to start or grow their own home repair team. We'd love to help you get started. If you have questions related to a home repair ministry, please leave a comment or send us an email and we'll follow up with you.


I Have Two Coats, My Neighbor Has None… Now What? Part One

Scripture often talks in specifics that seem to be examples of larger principles. For instance the principle of the Sabbath Year (Deuteronomy 15, Leviticus 25) is a picture of the open-handedness we ought to have toward the household of faith. The surrounding passages speak to addressing basic needs of the foreigner among us. These passages are a strong call to compassion and often end with: “I am the LORD your God.” The way I understand that is, “I have shown you mercy, now you go show it to others.”

Helping Hand

from freeimages.com, Michael Illuchine

So, how far should we go with merciful acts? How about a couple examples (among dozens) of New Testament passages that shed some light on the subject. John the Baptist told people in Luke 3:11 that if they had two shirts to give one to the neighbor who had none. I’ll bet having two shirts was extravagant in that day. I don’t think John would walk into the 21st Century and tell us that we should only have one shirt and it was to be the one we were wearing. That’s not to say that our giving should not cause us some loss, as it isn’t a sacrifice of thanks if it has no value to you. If we have abundance and encounter need, we are to be open-handed. Don’t give the worn out running shoes that stink up the closet, but the good pair that you can do without.

The Apostle John in 1 John 3 opens the door a little further when he says in verse 17 that if I have worldly goods and my brother has needs, yet I close my heart toward him, I should question whether God’s love abides in me. 1 John is full of “evidence passages” - 3:14 – We know that we have passed out of death into life because of our love for believers. I have always been captivated by the Gospel correspondence between John 3:16 and 1 John 3:16 - here saying that He (Jesus) laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our very lives for other believers. That is passing along the love of Christ as shown to me.

Read Part Two

Who Should We Serve - Part 2

In Part 1 of this blog post (see Monday 5/21) we discussed two methods that your mercy ministry or home repairs ministry can use to choose who you will serve. Today's post will look at a third, and more difficult, way to choose which projects to take and which people to serve.

C. Method 3 - Flying by the seat of your pants (with some basics guidelines and the Lord’s leading).

This is pretty difficult when you have several people making decisions with different levels of empathy for hurting people or levels of “street smarts” with tricky scammers.

Following are some thoughts on why some of these suggestions exist and examples where HRM has felt it necessary to be overridden. First, we owe those who financially support the ministry to take reasonable precautions to vet the person being helped. Your church Elders, Deacons, community outreach pastor, etc. may set the rules for you, or you may make a commitment to financial donors to “guarantee” certain guidelines. However, we found:

  • The age requirement tends to be arbitrary, often based on what many other agencies use. We have helped younger people when they have a circumstance, such as disability, or care of an elderly parent, or having custody of grandchildren, etc.
  • Many people mention that they are disabled with initial phone calls but it often isn’t obvious when we do a site survey. We don’t want to ask for a note from the doctor but still want to be careful. As detailed below, it is a lot easier to rely on another person’s clearer knowledge of the client than when you get on Senior’s Help Lists, with people calling you directly.
  • Ownership is important because landlords have been known to raise the rent on people who received help in a property. It is also illegal to work on a landlord’s house without permission and it is his obligation to keep the property livable. We have helped renters with their own things, e.g. furniture repairs or a minor appliance repair.
  • We can use government poverty numbers for income requirements and ask for last 2 pay stubs, etc. However, at HRM, we’d rather get a referral from another nonprofit or agency than get into that part of someone’s life. Dignity is very important to people getting help. Dignity means a lot. Remember the 70’s song, “We Are One in the Spirit”? Of course that was before my time. . . It includes the lines: “We will work with each other, We will work side by side. And we'll guard each man's dignity And save each man's pride." In another part of the song, it says, "And they’ll know we are Christians by our love...” That comes from John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (ESV) Loving God first, and loving neighbor as self has many facets to it, including dignified ways to lovingly help people.
  • Just as we don’t expect a church that is able to care for its own members to call our church to help, able families are expected to care for their own. But, just as we’re willing to help a church help its own, HRM commends teams who help families to help their own when it is too big to handle by themselves. Unfortunately, sometimes Grandma makes a commitment that the ‘grands’ will be there and when the volunteers arrive, and the family isn’t, we’ve never walked away. At least try to get them involved.
  • Essential repairs/maintenance only. We don’t generally put tile in bathrooms because someone wants to replace the sheet vinyl. Nor do we repaint for aesthetic reasons, though we will if walls are filthy and it will lift someone’s outlook. Who knows whether love demonstrated with a paint brush might open a heart to the Gospel. Deteriorated outside paint is a completely different issue, obviously.
  • As mentioned before, churches take care of their own. However, we’ve never shied away from calling a church to let them know a member has contacted us about needing help, and “would you like some help to address the situation?” They might develop a team because we took the time to help, then our work is multiplied in the community.
  • Never put volunteers in the situation where they feel like their time is not being used well. If there are extenuating circumstances that go beyond appearances, let them know why you chose to take on the project. As a volunteers coordinator, it is not easy to get volunteers when they are needed, so don’t let them think, “Boy, the next time he calls, I’m busy!”

Theological thought: Murphy’s Law is actually a worldly way of describing the Fall in Genesis. When you plant wheat, you grow weeds. It seems like it is always, “We have 130 middle-schoolers that want to serve on Saturday, when you only have projects that require skilled people, and when you need a lot of anyone’s help, everyone is busy. Right? Keep the volunteers happy! They are God’s valuable provision for you, Coordinator.

As mentioned, we need some spiritual discernment in dealing with hurting people. Tell the person you would like to pray with them, after hearing their story, ask that God would provide for the need, and listen very carefully for the Still Small Voice of the Spirit of God. And NEVER PROMISE WHAT YOU CANNOT DELIVER. Getting excited about helping doesn’t mean you can deliver. A little “thinking out loud” goes a very short distance before becoming a commitment in a hurting person’s ears.

So be bold, but be careful. Go with God.

Harvey

Read Part 1

Who Should We Serve - Part 1

Who we serve in our servics ministry (ours is home repair, but this could apply to other service ministries, as well) is a big decision with a lot of potential implications, some good and some not so good. There is no hard and fast rule on how to choose, but you can use several methods to help guide you. Ideally, these should be discussed as you are starting a ministry. These methods are not all limited to a home repairs ministry, so you can see if they are appropriate for your mercy ministry.

A. Method 1 - Having Clearly Defined Criteria or Guidelines

A list of rules can be used as a template to identify the threshold of “the truly needy.” Some of these that are fairly common but when compiled form a rather rigid framework, which may be a positive or a negative depending on how you view it. For instance:

  • Must be 60 years old or over
  • Owner/occupant of the home in question
  • Income level below _________/per resident
  • No able bodied family in the area to help out, or family must participate . . .
  • No available non-essential assets that are available for liquidation to at least purchase materials, if not hire contractors.
  • The help request is necessary for the maintenance or safety of the house
  • The owner is not a member of a church with a home repairs team
  • A situation where volunteers will feel that their time is not being used well

B. Method 2 - Using Your Gut

Under this heading, the list in “Clearly Defined Criteria”, along with others that you might create, are applied generally, but can be overridden by certain members of the team, a staff member, or a leader who has the authority to do so, acknowledging the leading of the Lord in the situation and extenuating circumstances.

Part 2 of this blog will show you a trickier method for choosing who you will serve.