Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Rock or the Candy?

I did an experiment with a group of willing individuals. Each was hand a rock and a piece of candy and we went on a walk together. We put the rock in our shoe and the candy in our mouths. After a while we sat down to discuss our experience. The first evaluation was, that took a while. Then followed concerns about the wearing of the rock against a foot. Others chimed in with agreement. Though we took a few minutes to explore and discuss our experience, the theme remained the same. No one mentioned the sweetness of the candy that melted on our tongues.

Why is it that it is so much easier to focus on the rough edges, the inconveniences and the trouble? It seems that it is easier to point out the problems, then to come up with a solution. First comes the litany of challenges, only later the accomplishment. But what of the joy of the journey? Solutions do not always come quickly. Reaching God given goals do not come at microwave speed, it requires time and commitment.

We are called as Christians to follow Jesus and share his love. This doesn’t happen in a moment, but in a daily journey after our Savior. We are called to share His love with our community. This is a God-sized task. There will be troubles on the way. On this journey will we choose to focus on the rock in our shoe or the sweetness of God’s presence?

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Walls Fall

It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down. Hebrews 11:30

Imagine yourself part of the fighting men called to march around Jericho. Pretend in your mind that you are rallied up to speak to your commander in chief, Joshua, leader of Israel. As he details the actions that will lead up to the capture of Jericho, would your eyebrows raise? what would your response be to the news that you are to march around the city in utter silence?

This seems a strange sort of way to accomplish a siege. Modern warfare, or even the warfare methods in the past do not apply here. Instead, this is a group of fighting men leading seven priests followed by the Ark of the Covenant, and then trailed by more fighting men.

So if your eyebrows raise, you are in good company. But because of their trust they choose to follow these instructions. Each day for six days they rise early, assemble their parade, and march around the city once. Then on the seventh day the circuits continue to the count of seven. But then the sound of a rams horn trumpet pierces the air. Then Joshua’s command, “Shout! For the Lord has given you this town!” Voice raise, shouting as loud as they can. And the amazing thing is not the command or the shouting, it is the walls falling flat. Now the military fortress that was Jericho is laid bare and the fighting men race straight into the city.

The book of Hebrews tells us all of this happened because of faith. The walls fell flat because of faith in a God who is able to knock down walls. This same God who could knock down heavily fortified walls, is the same God who lives today. It is the same God who can knock down the walls that stand in the way of you accomplishing what He has called you to do.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Why Social Justice?

The Biblical mandate comes for social justice in these words: “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.” Isaiah 1:17

If these words sound familiar, but the scripture reference sounds out of place, it is because this idea is reflected in multiple places in scripture. This is a Biblical mandate to do good, to engage in social justice issues. The call comes based on the infinite value God places on life. The reality that Christ would’ve died even if only you repented, also applies to your neighbor.

We are to step in and fight for social justice issues based on the human value and dignity that God bestows. The value God places on the unborn, on the elderly. The value He sees in those with special needs, those displaced immigrants. The love lavished from our God on the trafficked, marginalized and undervalued.

I ask with Ann Voskamp in her book The Broken Way. “Why do we rush to defend God to a broken world, and not race to defend the image of God in the world’s broken?” This is not an area that comes easily to me. I could, as could you, repeat many stories of where my choice to be involved in social justice ended in pain. Jesus himself reach out to the broken and it ended in pain, and death on our behalf. And yet the call comes to be involved, to not let that pain be the last chapter in the story.

But even agreeing that we must be involved, the question comes “How?” I can tell you it is much easier to write a check to an organization than to get up close and personal. To salve the conscience pricks that come as a result of news stories covering Aleppo, or the staggering statistics of humans that are trafficked for labor or for sex. We are tempted to stay at arms length, to salve the conscience jabs with a dollar sign and a stamp. I am completely convinced in my heart that we must engage in social justice, yet it often gets messy. How should engaging social justice look? What is the appropriate manner to get involved?

Does it look like the early days of our church’s history and Sarepta Miranda Henry? This is the lady we credit with founding women’s ministry. Her way of addressing the evils of alcohol was a pray in at the local bar. The women showed up and loudly prayed until the owner agreed to close.

Is it softer and gentler like the church that visits a home for severely developmentally challenged children to brush their hair and hold their hand? These children don’t even know they are there, cannot communicate in words. And yet this church goes daily to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Is it joining with the six year old boy who penned a letter to the president inviting the shell shocked Syrian boy Omran to live with him? Alex wrote: "Can you please go get him and bring him to [my home]?" he said in the handwritten note. "We will give him a family and he will be our brother."

People shout to close our borders and to lock the gates. And yet immigrants are who we are. We are all ethnic. We as the church don’t do ministry to those dependent on us like benevolent Santas. Rather we learn from these marginalized people, and our hearts begin to beat more like our Savior’s. “The church isn’t white or American. The church is headed by a middle eastern Jewish man who never spoke a word of English.” Russell Moore, Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel.

It is so painful to wrestle with how to engage, because by choosing one place to step in, we are saying no to others. Our hearts break to know that because we dedicate our resources to immigrant connections, that we will not have the resources to help unwed mothers. But I invite you to engage in this prayerful wrestling. In invite you to sit down to ask questions and listen to the Holy Spirit. To formulate a plan that is as unique as the gifts God gave you. And in this wrestling to know what it looks like to follow the invitation of Isaiah 1:17 “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.”

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


Remember forgiveness today. The forgiveness God gives you.

In Luke 18 a Pharisee and a tax collector head to the temple to pray. The Pharisee stands in a prominent place of the temple, as close to the holy of holies as he can get, and proceeds to pray. His prayer volume is barely short of a shout. The words he says are recorded for us, “‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.”

This Pharisee has it together. He isn’t in the list of people who won’t make heaven, cheaters, sinners or adulterers. Instead of fasting once a year, this Pharisees amps it up and fasts twice a week. He even returns his tithes. But he feels his goods works will gain him entrance to heaven.

In the shadow of the corner is a tax collector. A man who is in the same category as those the Pharisee is thankful he is not a part of. This tax collector who makes his living by cheating people is praying to God. His words are simple, “O God be merciful to me a sinner.” He sees that he is utterly unworthy of heaven, and pleads to God to do whatever it takes to justify him. He recognizes he can do nothing of himself. And so he admits his complete dependence and need.

Pray today as did the publican in Luke 18, “O God be merciful to me a sinner.” Recognize that there is nothing you can do to earn this salvation. You will not be allowed into heaven because your good works outweigh the bad. The only chance of heaven you have is your Savior’s death. It is based on this knowledge that the publican returned home justified before God. This is also the basis of our justification. Will you recognize this in your prayer today?