Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Call to Our Churches: As The Native Among You.

More than 13 million people worldwide have fled conflicts and crises in which religion has been a key factor, according to the 2015 report from the US Commission on International Religion Freedom (USCIRF). Timothy C. Morgan, 13 Million Flee Religion-Linked Conflicts Worldwide (Christianity Today)
The question that we should be asking ourselves after these opening words from this article is: "Where are all of these refugees going?"

According to the USCIRF, about 100,000 or more per year should be coming to the US. Our current ceiling for accepting refugees annually is about 70,000.

Personally having met many refugees who successfully found asylum in the United States in the 80's from the Khmer Rouge and knowing children of refugees from other nations in Southeast Asia, this issue of housing and integrating refugees is definitely not a new one.

We've had regular influx of refugees from Sudan, Ethiopia, Iraq and several other nations for several years. But finding your way in the US isn't easy. The film "The Good Lie" is an excellently done glimpse into the challenges of settling in a new nation.

In spite of Christian leaders calling for Christians and other religious minorities to remain in the countries, it seems as if most in the Middle East and other nations where violence and oppression against minority religious groups is a mainstay have decided the the risk is too high and since 2007 the US has accepted 84,900 Iraqi refugees alone.

Why should we be involved?

In Leviticus, when God is establishing the law for His people He specifically makes mention of the foreigner when He says:

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34 ESV)

When I read this article that I quote in the very beginning of this post, I can't help but wonder what re-settlement is going to be like for these families. Where will we put them, will they end up in ghettos? Will we be willing to help them acquire the skills and knowledge to navigate our complex society? Will there be jobs where they will be able to make enough to support their families? This is something the church, at-large, must bear a great deal of responsibility for.

I want to make a call out to the churches of my home town and beyond:

Let's open our homes to refugees! Let's actively seek out opportunities to welcome them into our lives no matter how inconvenient, uncomfortable and cumbersome it might be!

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34 ESV)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Where Is The Urgency?

“The trouble with deep belief is that it costs something And there is something inside me, some selfish beast of a subtle thing that doesn't like the truth at all because it carries responsibility, and if I actually believe these things I have to do something about them. It is so, so cumbersome to believe anything. And it isn't cool.” Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality
What do you believe in? What would you die for? It's a heavy heavy question and heavy heavy questions aren't really all that fun to answer if you don't like to think. Thinking takes practice. Thinking takes patience. Thinking requires getting rid of distractions and just... thinking.  Believe it or not, we have to learn how to think. People who think a lot seem to be a bit more serious and even slightly more awkward than people who don't. But we need to think and we fail to think.

Organize your thoughts for a moment. What do you you believe in? Do you believe that you are alive? Do you believe that what is happening around you is actually happening and that your current surroundings actually exist? Can you prove it?

What if your life is actually happening and there are two story lines occurring around you all the time? One story line is what you are living in day-to-day. That includes waking up, brushing your teeth, eating breakfast, going to work, picking the kids up from school, studying for an exam. Then there is another deeper thread that is connecting humanity together. This one is even more important because it has eternal consequences. Either you believe that these two story lines exist or you don't. I'm not going to try and convince you of either.

What I want us to think through together is the "what if?" What if there is a deeper story-line that has eternal consequences? What if that underlying deeper story-line is intricately interwoven into the day-to-day happenings of your life? What if the eternal implications were life and death, a life everlasting in relationship with a creator God who loves you more than you can ever imagine or a life of everlasting in separation from that creator God who loves you more than you can ever imagine?

Again, my point isn't to prove to you that this is the truth. I want you to consider the implications if this is the truth.

So let's just say that the deeper story-line is interwoven with your day to day tedium like washing dishes, studying for your test, picking out the right shoes for you outfit today. We have to live life in the tedium, it's crucial otherwise we'd be naked and hungry. And it's easy to ignore the deeper story-line in our lives. I'd venture to guess that most of us do. There are a ton of people out there who would like to sell you their version of a deeper story-line whether it has to do with new-age philosophy, eastern religious thought, Islam, Christianity or secularism (which one might argue has no deeper story-line). People are living and dying every day for these deeper story-lines while we go on living comfortably either ignoring them altogether or broaching them halfheartedly.

It's the halfhearted pursuit that concerns me the most. When we know that there is something so incredibly important that our eternity and, more importantly, the eternity of others depends on how it plays out but only pursue living out that story with the slightest modicum of intentionality, we are in essence defeating ourselves and committing a crime against our own moral standard.

Let me explain. There is s disease that is killing people throughout the world. You and a handful of others know what the cure is for that disease and have the knowledge to save humanity. Some people say that there is no cure, some say that there is no disease, some say that their cure is the real one and your cure wont work, but for argument's sake, let's say that you do actually have a very real cure for a very real disease. You have some options with what you do with it. You can depend on others to pass on the knowledge/cure. You can withhold the knowledge/cure because you don't want people to think you are crazy for saying you have it. You can occasionally tell a few chosen people over the course of your lifetime about the knowledge/cure or you can make a choice to live to see as many people cured as possible. Which would be the most moral choice?

The moral choice is obviously to get knowledge of the cure out to as many people as possible, even making it part of your life's mission. That is the sense of urgency that Christians should be living with everyday. We don't, or at least most of us don't, and that should bother us. So why don't we treat the Gospel with the same sort of urgency? I'm sure that we can come up with several reasons if we were to sit down and brain storm.

Allow me to submit some of my ponderings: Part of the problem is that it's a weighty topic to give much thought to. It burdens our hearts for people in a way that breaks down certain protective barriers that we have spent our entire lives fortifying. We don't know how people will react. We are afraid of what a message of such urgency would do to our friendships, families, work environments and even our churches. It's not cool to carry around something to heavy and burdensome because once it is shared there is no taking it back and maintaining any sort of ethical consistency with our lives.

We need this sense of urgency in our churches, and frankly, folks, I don't see it. As a matter of fact, the church of America is awash with comfortably neutered Christians who are hard chargers for the gospel at church and maybe even in Bible study but away from church, how do they express the love and life giving truth of the Gospel message?

I'm no less guilty of this than anyone else, but let's pray this together, that God renews a sense of urgency in our hearts to reach out, touch lives and hearts, in grace and the love of Jesus Christ. Let's pray that our hearts are broken for the lost and that we would become willing vehicles of the Holy Spirit to reveal the underlying story-line that unites all of humanity.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Note From Elizabeth

From Elizabeth:

As I think of this upcoming medical mission trip to Haiti I hang on tight to these three verses from the Bible:

1. Joshua 1:9 "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."

2. Deuteronomy  31:8 "It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed ."

3. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  "Rejoice  always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;  for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

The thought of going on a medical mission  without  being a medical  professional is a tad intimidating and nerve-racking, but Zach reassures me that my organizing talents and french background will be very useful!  I know that God wouldn't send me there without a plan or equip me with what I need to get through it. I need to hold onto that and trust what is said in Deut.31:8, He will not leave me or forsake me!  I have never been to a developing country or witnessed that kind of poverty. I'm not sure what to expect and how it will effect me when I come home to my "comfy" life. All I know is I have a desire to bring hope and love that is in Jesus Christ to these people and that hope is free and doesn't require a medical degree to share it!  I pray that when an opportunity arises to share the gospel that I will not worry about messing up or failing God that I would just trust him to give me the right words and not let my self get in the way.  So if you feel led to pray for us I personally could use prayer that God would give me the wisdom I need to be helpful in Haiti, that our children and our parents who will be  taking care of them be ok in our absence, that God's love would be seen through us and the team going to Haiti.   

Sent from Samsung tablet.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Because first, Christ.

As we spent time both with our church family and our physical families this weekend, we were refreshed and encouraged to learn of how many people are supporting us as we prepare for this mission.

There are so many aspects of this mission that seem daunting from the obvious to the subtle. Obviously, financially, raising $3500 is a big deal. Obviously leaving our kids with our parents for so long will be trying for everyone involved. Obviously the arduous work and traveling into rugged and remote areas in Haiti without the infrastructure and safety nets that we are accustomed too in the US will be a stretch for us.

More subtly, we will be challenged to grow in ways that we can't forsee such as in faith, to overcome the inevitable shock and sorrow of seeing extreme poverty and poor nutrition first hand. We will need to be bold in our acts of compassion requiring sacrifice and moving well beyond our comfort zones. All for what? What drives the hundreds and thousands of people like us to accept challenges, forego comfort and endure risk? Is it for self-promotion, to impress friends or colleagues? Is it so that we have exotic photos to post on facebook or give us good stories to tell in our memoirs? Is it to leave behind a lasting legacy?

All these things are ultimately worthless. What drives us, if I may be bold enough to speak for my wife, is that first Christ loved us. First Christ sacrificed for us. First Christ lived among us, the spiritually impoverished who had little hope and were hungry for the sustenance only Jesus could provide even though we didn't know it at the time. He was rejected, castigated, hated, tortured, hung on a cross and He knew it would all take place. He was willing to endure these things because He loved even those who hated Him. That is our inspiration and our driving force.

I admit, this sounds ridiculous, or "religilous" and contrived. I know how it appears to the world when we (counting the thousands of other medical mission workers doing this often at even greater cost) say that we are doing this for something other than self-serving reasons, so I won't waste time explaining why that isn't the case for us, but I want to encourage others to ignore what people may say or think about them or their motives; to move beyond their comfort zones similarly just to experience it themselves. Only through experiencing something like this can we understand the common need not only to provide compassionate aid to those in need, but to do something that is totally and completely non-selfish with our time and resources.

Because first, Christ.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Haiti 2015

My wife and I are going back to Haiti this May. I will be posting some updates to let you know about our progress and this will our official location for mission photos and blog updates while we are on the mission. If you would like to donate to help us meet our goal of $3500 to go, the link is in the upper right hand corner of this page and you pay directly into our PayPal account.

Thanks. We'll be posting updates regularly until we leave.