Monday, November 16, 2015

Love the Foreigner

Love the Foreigner
So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. Deut. 10:19 NLT

3,000,000 Syrian refugees. These are people who are broken. One of the eight terrorists in Paris had a Syrian passport, which may or may not mean he came as a refugee. This is a very small statistical percentage. Many people are speaking about the threat that helping refugees poses. States in the USA are declaring they will not permit them into their state. This will most likely not make the USA any safer. I can't recall any of our many mass murder attackers being a refugee; nor terrorist attacks in our country coming at the hands of refugee. 

If one refugee ever becomes entangled in some horrible crime in this country, it will still not implicate all refugees any more than a crazed gunman proves the need for gun control for all Americans, one rogue police officer casts guilt on all of our fine men and women in blue, or one criminal act by any individual causes me to judge a whole group of people. Corrupted individuals in this nation have consistently found their own means to perpetrate their evil deeds. Making a general decision to keep out all refugees will not protect America. Impure hearts will still find a way to commit injustice. 

Our Actions Reveal Our Hearts
What would setting up barriers accomplish? Keeping out refugees simply reveals a fearful or calloused heart. This revelation matters because the conflict in which we see ourselves is an ideological one, not a geographical nor ethnic-based conflict. Fear plays into the hands of the terrorists. That is precisely the emotion that they want to evoke. They want for us as a people to surrender our lives to their wishes. The want us to submit to their demands. 

A calloused and hardened heart might be worse, though. Hard hearts are not natural. They are produced. A hardened heart moves from being a living thing to a calcified, impenetrable stone on account of hurt and lack of healing. Every person has had hurt. These hurts are real and can be debilitating for a time. Some of our hurts last a lifetime. I stand in the belief that hurt can be healed. Scars may remain, but hurt can become hope again.

We Are People of the Light
We are in a crooked and twisted generation. Recent events in Baghdad, Beirut, and Paris demonstrate this. So do the countless crimes we all see in our local news that never make the national or international scene. But we are not a people of fear. We are children of the light. We are called to bear the light even in this crooked and twisted generation. Light expels the darkness, not "darker" darkness. We don't bear light very well in hiding or hunkered down behind walls. Perpetua & Felicita welcomed the animals along with thousands of other early Christian martyrs. Countless believers throughout 2000 centuries stood for faith in the midst of very real and present danger, not fear of mere potential threats, and in so doing gave their lives because they counted the thing promised them more valuable that the things of this world (Heb. 11:13). 

Vigilant and Compassionate
I believe that we can simultaneously be vigilant about security and compassionate for those in grave need and imminent danger. We used to be a people that operated as a beacon of light to those with no hope. Have we lost that edge? Does fear control our hearts to such a degree that it calls the shots now? Not in my heart. I intend to face the future with hope of a risen savior, with the hope of my own eventual bodily resurrection, with resiliency and fervor that befits the tremendous legacy of which I am a recipient, and with a heart full of love for all mankind. This includes people very much unlike myself. Even people that I don't think deserve it. After all, I was offered love and forgiveness when I didn't deserve it (Rom. 5:8, 10).

When I stand before Jesus, I am convinced that he will be little concerned with how I felt comfortable or secure in this short life. Rather, I am convinced that He will inspect my holiness and how I lived out His commands to love the Father, love people (especially the widow, orphan, foreigner, and poor), tell the Story, and surrender to the Holy Spirit's purpose for my life.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Supporting vs Doing

by Timothy Howe

Getting Involved
Summer is fast approaching. It will soon be time for picnics and family vacations. And for many churches and charities it will be one of the busiest times. Like many church leaders, we have traditionally been very involved in kids ministries during the summer since parents are happy to find activities for their bored children. Personally, it is fun for us to participate in sports, music and fun kids programs. Yet it is always hard finding volunteers to help with these activities. Understandably, the timing is off for some of these activities since people work or are out of town. In these cases, individuals often contribute resources when they are not able to help. 

Supporting vs. Doing
Some people have shared with me that they cannot do such and such, so they give to an institution to accomplish that purpose. Giving to agencies which carry out Christ's teaching is good. My family regular donates to such charities. These valuable and effective ministries require this sort of support to carry out the work that they are designed to accomplished. Supporting this work extends our capacity to minister because charitable ministries are often created with specialized strengths that maximize our charitable gifts. Supporting ministry, however, should not replace doing ministry. We are called to serve. Supporting ministry is valuable, but it should only be a part of our ministry effectiveness. 

Increasing Capacity
Supporting ministry that accomplishes what we are not capable of doing extends our overall effectiveness. Yet, each of us possesses gifts and strengths that allow for us to make our unique impact in the world. This does not mean that we have to be the expert of anything that we do. In all likelihood there will always be room to grow in whatever we do, but the continued exercise of our gifts and skills develop them over time to allow us to be better servants. If we allow our gifts to remain idle they will remain inadequate. As we utilize them, they grow and we increase our ministry capacity.

Faith Impact 
Our faith should affect our behavior. What we say we believe about Jesus and His teachings should be evident in how we live our lives. As people of faith we have the intrinsic hope in Christ and of the day when He will return. We know that His Spirit goes before us in ministry, His call is already on the lives of the hurting around us, and His work is going to achieve His purposes. The degree to which we employ our gifts towards that work speaks either to the degree to which we truly believe in Him or to which we are really committed to walking in discipleship. 

Are you ready to serve as well as support ministry?
Are you ready to increase your ministry capacity?
Are you ready for your faith to have an impact outside of yourself?