Category Archives: LessonFromBible

The Pilgrims were Refugees…

This weekend in churches across America, especially in New England, the Pilgrim’s journey to the new world will be discussed. We’ll hear things like “they were coming to simply escape persecution.. To be able to live free from the horror of families being split apart by a world turned against them. Fathers ripped away from families.” We’ll hear about the very real persecution faced by many as they first escaped to Holland and then to the new world. Looking for freedom, peace and security. You’ll hear words like Providence and a conversation about a sovereign God preparing a way. You’ll hear of the peaceful Thanksgiving dinner with some of the indigenous population (though they also were met with weaponry by others still). We’ll hear about the plights, hopes and challenges facing these people who were  forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.  (quick note… that’s the definition of a refugee from Google there in italics)…

Yes. So in many churches my fellow Christians will be speaking of God’s providence, the hopes and thankfulness of refugees who settled a land, formed a nation and received what they sought after fighting an uphill battle to get it..

Psalm 107 and Cognitive Dissonance

In many of these churches, Psalm 107 might be discussed, quoted or preached from. Some call this the “Pilgrim’s Psalm.” I suppose you could call it the refugee’s Psalm also.

He turns rivers into a desert, springs of water into thirsty ground, a fruitful land into a salty waste, because of the evil of its inhabitants.

He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water.
And there he lets the hungry dwell, and they establish a city to live in;
they sow fields and plant vineyards and get a fruitful yield.

By his blessing they multiply greatly, and he does not let their livestock diminish. When they are diminished and brought low through oppression, evil, and sorrow, he pours contempt on princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes;

but he raises up the needy out of affliction and makes their families like flocks. The upright see it and are glad, and all wickedness shuts its mouth.
Psalm 107 33-42 (ESV)

Catch that! Yes. The Psalm is here referring to the happenings of His people, Israel – but there are a few key takeaways elsewhere in the Bible and here that should make us think. Should make us ponder and consider:

1.) Common Grace – throughout the Bible, the concept that grace exists to the benefit of all the inhabitants of this land, is not foreign. That doesn’t mean I’m a mushy humanist first or foremost. The chief end of man is to Glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We are all rotten sinners who cannot do that apart from Grace. People are brought to salvation by God first so they can give Him the glory due to Him. The glory due to his name. So Christ can receive the rewards of his suffering – converted souls. But there is much benefit for us. And the fact that we all have any breath at all after sinning just once is grace. The hospitals, orphanages, charities and shelters started by believers is grace. The end should never be just common grace or social justice – it should be to honor God by caring for those created in His image – but the point remains… Common grace should drive us to ask the hard questions and care for people in the hard ways.

2.) See that bolded part? When the hard thing is done, when God’s people pull up their sleeves and let Christ show hope through them? The upright see it and are glad, and wickedness shuts its mouth.. That verse alone makes me want to weep for how we’ve missed this.

Where’s the cognitive dissonance?

This weekend fellow believers will be in church this weekend listening to messages speaking about how amazing God is. How much we have to be thankful for. They’ll hear or even give messages talking about the plight of a group of refugees who came to a land inhabited by others to try and get the space and peace and safety they needed to live freely. There will be Amens. There will be nodding heads. There will even be some pulpits slapped by the fists of men of God rightly proclaiming God’s sovereignty over everything and the security that comes from that.

Yet… Across much of  in name only “Christendom” and actual Christendom in America – by Sunday afternoon, eyes will be glued to the TV, the websites, the anger will boil and rise. And shouts against refugees looking for what the Pilgrims were looking for 400 years ago will crescendo and echo throughout the airwaves, houses and status updates.

Maybe those will be outright shouts. Maybe they’ll be what I’ve caught myself doing with fence sitting comments like “yes. we should help some, but…”

This morning sitting in a great message for Thanksgiving I wrote a lot of notes. I fully agreed with all the words of my Pastor – but I wrote some quotes he shared and questions I found myself wondering about when he was talking. His message was about the Puritans we call Pilgrims, but I kept going to the refugees. The thoughts below are thoughts I had about the cognitive dissonance:

“Is He Sovereign Or not?” – If he is? We should care about security and not be foolish – a sovereign God doesn’t mean we should jump off Everest. But it means that we can be rational and ask rational questions – and when they are answered and we learn the risks aren’t what we think they are – we should be willing to relent and not just say “fine.. let them come” but we should actually strive to be the body of Christ we are called to be! All the way. If he is sovereign – we should be willing to do the uncomfortable thing and the thing with a slight slight slight  risk of fearful outcome if it means doing what His clear and revealed will is in caring for others..

“Pilgrims – it was providence.. Refugees Today? GO AWAY!” – That seems to be what I see and hear a lot.

This quote – My pastor shared in the context of what the Pilgrims were trying to do. He attributed it to Swiss Psychiatrist Paul Tournier “…we long for a place to belong, a place to be home all our lives, and we are restless until we find it.” – Hear that? It’s a good quote. That’s what many of these refugees are looking for. They had that, by the way. But it was ripped from them.

The Mission Field Is Coming To Us – We often get excited about putting the money and prayer and time into sending missionaries. But right now? A mission field wants to come to us. And we are screaming and shouting at them and telling them to go back to the ruins they are fleeing… You could call these folks “the least of these” and if you did, then Christ’s words in Matthew 25:40 should haunt you. I got at this in my talk speaking about the Problem with The American Church in a post a year or two ago. Let’s take care of the mission field coming to us.

Closing Thoughts

No. We shouldn’t just open the borders and not enforce security. But we need to understand that the refugee process is perhaps the vector least likely to be used by terrorists. The vetting process is crazy there. Meanwhile visa waivers, overstayed student visas, an unsecure border, etc are far more threatening.

Many of my conservative friends hate it, just like I do, when the refrain of “DO SOMETHING!” comes up about guns after an incident and irrational legislation starts. We get uncomfortable with the statements that start with “if just one life can be saved”  yet we use the same here. If we were serious? Then we’d want to use that logic to stop a lot of other causes of terrorism that some of the liberal policies speak to. We can’t use the logic we hate being used against things we care about. It’s dishonest of us.

This year I’ve come back to this verse in Isaiah a lot. And it works here also. Are we going to do Christianity? Or are we going to do Politics Infused Christianity? It’s a choice we have to make. Let’s wake up and look at the suffering in front of us. Let’s look at the extras we have. Try and imagine ourselves in their shoes. Even just for a second. What will we do?

Isaiah 1:17 says “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” –  Oppressed? Check. Fatherless? Often. Widows? Often. Their cause? To survive and maybe provide a chance for their family to thrive..

They may look different. Many of them may even believe differently and worship a false God. Many are confused. Many don’t speak our language. And a couple bad apples could be mixed into the throngs of scared and hurting families.  But this verse doesn’t talk about these things. It just says learn to do good, seek justice and correct their oppression. So what are we going to do? Obey? Or yell and push away?

 

Lot Wasn’t Perfect… And I’m Not Any Better…

This weekend at church, we had a visiting seminary student preach. It was a good message in a lot of ways. It also really caused me to reflect on Lot’s life, God’s Election and some of the topics I’ve been recently posting about here.

I want to explore something that I often hear folks say about Christians. It may sound different but the premise is the same. It goes something like this:

You all think you are perfect and better than everyone else. You think you can be the moral police of the world and you judge the world by your standards. But you aren’t any better. Stop being so high and mighty. Stop being so holier than thou.

Lot was saved. He was saved out of a corrupt and wicked city. The sin wasn’t just the “much talked about sin” evidenced by the men wanting to beat down Lot’s door to “know” the messengers sent to visit the city. The sin was to the point where even Lot was willing to give up his own virgin daughters to appease the men. It was to the point where selfishness, greed, and everyone doing what was right in their own eyes was the common thing. It was a city where not even ten righteous men could be found…

But it was also a city where not even one could be found, really. You see Lot didn’t participate in every sin of the city. He seemed to rise above the well known sin of the city. He kept himself pure perhaps on the outside. He appeared good – by the yardstick of man. When measuring among the folks he lived with, he seemed “alright”. So the quote above could be said of him. Someone could call him “Little Goody Two Shoes”.

I don’t know what Lot felt of himself. I don’t know what his own assessment of himself was. I’ve heard him talked about in good terms by others, though. He escaped. He didn’t do “that bad stuff” and he got away from the city and tried to protect the angels and he even gave them hospitality for their visit.

I imagine that we sometimes engage in thinking like this. Actually let me rephrase that – I know that I fall into this trap. The trap of thinking, “Well….  I do this, I do that, I go to church, I don’t engage in this, I don’t engage in that.” I start looking horizontally and think a bit higher of myself than I ought to. It’s often said that you can always find someone worse than yourself. So I find the easy targets and look at myself on the outside – in how I stack up.

There are two things related to this line of thought here in Lot’s story though. One a warning/reminder for the Christian who finds him or herself thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to (and I’m talking mostly to me here). The other is a reminder for those who just assume that that’s the default position a Christian has. It shouldn’t be – and that’s a shame.

Look at Lot’s Departure!

12 Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place. 13 For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.” 14 So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up! Get out of this place, for the Lord is about to destroy the city.” But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.

15 As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.” 16 But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand,the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.17 And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.”Geneis 19:15-17 ESV (Emphasis Added)

See that? Lot wasn’t packed and ready to leave. In fact in Genesis 19 you can see a few things Lot got wrong. But here in these verses? His sons-in-law didn’t respect him or take him seriously. That says something. It says he was comfortable and so were they. But then his exit from the destruction that did reign wasn’t even something he effected. He was “seized” by these messengers of God and dragged outside of the city. Later in life Lot couldn’t look back and say “Yup.. I was good enough, and I saved myself from that mess.” Instead he had to look back, mourn the loss of his wife and say, perhaps with embarrassment, “I didn’t even have the sense to leave the mess.. I had to be seized and brought out of the city…I was willing to give up my own daughters. I lived among filth and didn’t separate myself from it, I didn’t lead my family in a God honoring way.. I wanted to stay!” And these verses didn’t say “Lot earned his spot outside of the city safe and sound”, it says that his being carried away was an example of “T\the Lord being merciful to him.”

These lyrics in Lecrae’s Lucky Ones come to mind here:

Under the sun, I found we were left to drown
Evil abounds, weight is pullin’ us down
No sight or sound, impaired to His care
Chasing after the wind, running after the air
Deserving of desertion, servants of destruction
And everyday we taste of a grace that we’re unconcerned with
My sin I should be burned with, I’m guilty, filthy, and stained
But He became a curse, drank my cup and took my pain
And for that he reigns, through faith I’m changed
And I don’t have a reason why he loosened up my chains

I don’t believe in luck; I believe in Grace
But they say we’re lucky cause we seen His face
And we heard Him call us, and He heard our answer
And He gives us second chances when we throw our hands up
So weary and broken, hopin’ His arms will be open
Unconditional love has got us locked into His focus
(I guess we the luck ones, huh?)

The only thing different between me and someone who is outside of Christ – is that I’m receiving mercy. Unmerited favor. Jesus paid for my sins – and my sins are many.  There is even less difference between Lot and I, though. I had to be carried away from the punishment of my sins. I love my sin and myself. I love being comfortable.

Christian – when we see ourselves as better than those who aren’t Christ’s – we miss the truth about our sin sickened hearts. We miss just how rotten we are. Because we are looking at the situation horizontally. “Less bad than the men beating down the door” isn’t perfect. It isn’t anything to brag about. Let us boast in Christ for what He did to us. Let us remember that we were pulled from the wreckage of our lives by God, we didn’t walk out of the mess and then he found us.. He pulled us away. In spite of our complete and total lack of deserve. We are sinners. We are totally depraved and unable to save ourselves. We aren’t His because there was some spark of something good or worthy in us! We are looking back, hesitant to leave.. 

Friend who isn’t a Christian – Don’t assume that because I am Christ’s I think myself any better than you. I’m not. I’m no different in any respect except for the fact that my sins have been paid for by Christ. Paul called himself the chief of sinners – and the model of his words should apply to me. When I say something like “Your sins are keeping you from Christ” I don’t mean that in any other way than – “I know this is true, because I’m just like you. I screw up still. There isn’t an hour that goes by that I am awake that I don’t do, think or act out some sort of sin. I deserve Hell – more than you perhaps. I’m His. I’m declared righteous in God’s sight and have His power changing my nature every day. I want you to have that too. Not because I get points, not because it gives me a feeling of superiority – but because I love you and care about you and know all about your state, we have more in common than not.”

Let’s look to Lot the next time we think more highly of ourselves. Let’s look to Lot the next time we think we brought anything to our salvation other than the sin that needed forgiving. 

I’m not Afraid of Fundamentalist Christians.. I’m Afraid of Becoming One…

People are never so completely and enthusiastically evil as when they act out of religious conviction. – Umberto Eco 

 

There are many quotes like the one above out there. The premise from the atheist philosophers who share the quotes like them is that becoming a fundamentalist (we’ll get to that definition in a minute) or “radical” adherent to a faith system – any faith system – is a bad thing. It’s an evil thing and it is bad for society, bad for the world and bad for the adherent who has become such.

Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens and others in what has sometimes been called the “new atheist” movement have furthered that view and gone as far as to suppose that teaching these principles to ones children was an act of evil, even bordering on abusive or dangerous behavior.

They lump all faiths in together and leave it at that. They dig up news stories, they dig up history, they seem to (for the most part) ignore the context and teachings and end up with the thought that being a radical is bad. Now I may agree with them in some respects – but I am concerned mostly with Christianity here. I can’t truly say what it means to be a fundamental or radical member of any other faith. But I am qualified, I think, to talk about what the Bible seems to offer about what it is to be so as a Christian.

And I’ll be honest with you and tell you a secret about myself… At the exact same time I am both desiring to be closer to being such a Christian…. And terrified, in my flesh, of becoming closer to being such a Christian…

I’ll try to explain why…

First Some Definitions

Now perhaps I am being unfair and these folks really mean something different by the terms they use.

But I basically define Fundamental as “Get’s down to the most important, and core principles of something”. Webster has more and for the most part agrees.

I basically define Radical the same way. Webster here seems to agree with me – but also disagree. One of the definitions is “Very new and different from what is traditional or ordinary” – and with that definition? I’d agree – being a Radical Christian is a bad thing. But I’m sticking with the first few definitions from Webster here. 

Why am I Afraid of Being Radical or Fundamental in the Expression of my Beliefs?

How about why not first…

  • I’m not afraid of being like, say, Fred Phelps – The Bible doesn’t proclaim anywhere to preach “I hate you. God hates you.” <raspberry sound>. Yes there are some tough messages there for sure, but the tough messages are borne out of love.  Verses abound here but this is a proper one “Save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” Jude 1:23 (ESV)
  • I’m not afraid of strapping a bomb on myself and blowing up an abortion clinic… I don’t need to explain this one – the Bible doesn’t condone this, and the verse above even makes this clear. Yes I should love people enough to be willing to tell them “God has a standard, you are falling short of that. I’ve been there. Here’s what the Bible says, you should repent and seek God”
  • I’m not afraid of turning my children into horrible monsters – When I get to the why, I think you’ll see that if my children came out acting like radical Christians they’d not be looked upon as horrible monsters at all..

So Why Be Afraid?

I have a condition of my heart and mind. I’m a sinner. I like myself. Sometimes too much – usually too much. I like taking care of myself first – I’m selfish. My normal state is to think of myself and my comfort. I don’t even like the idea of moving when my wife ever talks about it – mostly because I can imagine all the packing – I’m lazy too. My natural state before Christ grabbed a hold of my life and shook me towards Himself was even worse. Since then? It’s been a journey. Each year more of Him and less of me. He’s been working through my life in amazing ways and I’m getting to the point now where it is exciting to see where He will take me next.. But even still – I am, at once Justified (I’m going to Heaven. I’m His, my old nature has been defeated, I’m in God’s hands and I can’t do anything to screw that up) and at the same time still a sinner (that bondage of the old nature still lurks, and some days it is more enticing to me in fleeting moments of idiocy…

Take that as a back drop to some verses on what Christ wants for the life of those He ransomed –

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. – Luke 9:23 (ESV)

This right here is enough to be afraid of all by itself. The other verses are just icing on the cake. The cross isn’t meant to be a picture of something small – like climbing a hill on a bicycle – the cross was the place where Christ received the full weight and agony of my sin. I’m supposed to take up my own cross daily and follow Christ. Christ didn’t go into fun places. He didn’t stay clean and sit back and order folks around. He went to where the hurting were and he helped them directly. He went to where the sinners were and ministered to them directly while being unstained by their sin and remaining pure. If I am to be a fundamentalist or a radical – I need to be willing to go wherever Jesus would have me go. WHEREVER… 

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father.25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ – John 15:18-25

I’m a people pleasing people person. I like being liked and I like having friends. If I live like Jesus wants me to live and like He directs me to live – I will sometimes be hated, scorned, spit on and mocked – like He was. My flesh? It doesn’t like the sound of that.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. – Matthew 5:43-48

I’m supposed to then love those folks who would scorn me, spit at me and persecute me? Jesus did. He prayed asking for forgiveness for the very soldiers who mocked Him and hung Him on a cross. I need to be like Steven in Acts who prayed for those who were stoning him to death. Is this the kind of radical or fundamental Christian they are afraid of?! The one who will truly believe that those who are persecuting them are to be loved and prayed for? Not spitefully, but genuinely and lovingly? 

28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these. -Mark 12:28-31

OUCH! One could say that Christian living boils down to these two commandments. IF they did they’d be agreeing with Jesus.. Love God.. (Sounds easy, right? I do love Him) but.. With ALL my heart, ALL my soul, ALL my mind, ALL my strength… ALL? That’s a lot – and that’s all the time. I don’t do that. I could focus on this one command forever and still not be nearer to Christ’s perfect example after a full life.. But Jesus adds to it – I have to love my neighbor as myself… He explains who the neighbor is in Luke.. It’s the person that your heart, mind and soul would most despise.. Picture whoever that is. Maybe Osama Bin Laden if he were alive still. The point is – my neighbor is everyone. I’m to love them like I love myself.. And I just got done telling you I love myself a lot. My neighbor is also those people dying halfway around the world. My neighbor is those bearing the sword against Christians in Mosul, Iraq right now.

 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak,slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:22-27

A verse to wrap it up with. In case it isn’t clear – I’m to not just listen to these commands, if I am to be a fundamental Christian, I’m to live them out each day. I’m to practice my faith and show evidence of my faith through bearing fruit and living this life out.

Some examples that come to mind quickly of folks who have done this before me or who are doing it now:

  • The Doctor who just contracted Ebola in the course of a medical mission – leaving the comforts of America to minister to those dying of Ebola and help an overwhelmed system.
  • The missionary who died in an island of lepers because he had to go there and love them and knew the risk and hugged those lepers and taught them anyway.
  • The young Moravian men who literally sold themselves into slavery so they could proclaim the gospel to slaves where no missionary was able to visit.
  • The men killed by the Auca Indians or their wives who still ministered to them afterwards.

The story doesn’t even have to end in tragedy in earthly terms. It can just be being bold and sharing faith where led, even if it means to a land where proselytizing could mean death. It could be being faithful in the little things..

In summary… Christ wants Radical or Fundamental Christians. Not necessarily all to join the mission field, not necessarily all to become full time evangelists. But all to do what it is in the body of Christ God ultimately wants us to do. And do so willingly, lovingly and totally surrendered to Him. Loving all we encounter, and proclaiming the truth – not as a mace to strike someone on the head and say “HA!” about – but because we want the lamb who was slain to receive the glory due to His name.. Because we want His elect to hear His words and repent and turn to God. And if they don’t? Well the Bible says we love them anyway… 

That’s radical or fundamental Christianity. And those selfish parts of me? They are terrified of that prospect…

Kids On The Border – Random Thoughts

At the southern border of the United States there is a situation going on right now described in many different adjectives. The bottom line is there is a mass of children – not accompanied by parents arriving and seeking out the US Customs and Immigration (USCIS/Border Patrol) officers and declaring their intentions to enter and stay. There’s a lot of them – more than USCIS can handle. More than the services set up to help them can handle. And there is a lot of chatter about those kids and just what we should “do with them”.  For some reason I feel led to jump into that fray. 

There are two “issues” in this situation. (and I hate terms like situation and issue, but I want to keep the adjectives simple and zoom in on a few things, not buzz words or worry over labels and which adverbs are and aren’t used).

One of the issues is – Why do they keep coming, and what have we done to encourage that and what should be done. That’s a great issue for politicians to discuss. I’m not going to wander terribly far into that one here – not today at least.

The other issue is – What do we do with the kids on the border right now? Some are bad actors – gangsters even. Some (many by many accounts) have a parent living someplace in the US – probably here without a legal right to be here*. Some are just lost and were sent here hoping to find success in our land of opportunity. They come from countries that don’t share a contiguous border with us. Under the laws on the books they have to be evaluated to make sure they don’t just get put back in the hands of the traffickers or coyotes who somehow managed to bring them here.

(*I will refer to that as an Illegal Alien here – Aliens are people, my oldest daughter is a legal alien until the naturalization process happens – I still consider her a person that I’d give my life to protect, so I mean nothing wrong by alien. And if they are not hear with visa documentation after going through paperwork – they are in violation of US Civil law and they are supposed to be deported according to our criminal code – and that’s the same as it’s always been).

The Goal

I’m going to talk a bit about these kids. And I think I’m going to formulate some thoughts even as I type this – so bear with my stream of consciousness style with lots of commas and parenthesis. I’ll try and gather thoughts together as I go. But I don’t want to talk about the politics of this. I don’t want to talk about the parties. I don’t want to talk about optics. I don’t want to spit out talking points. I want to look at the human beings in this mess a bit.

The Reason

There’s a lot of talk going on out there. I was scanning through the radio on the way to a meeting today and heard an evangelical radio talk show that delves into the intersection of faith and politics. I like a lot of what these folks on Point of View say at various times, but I also sometimes feel that they take talking points from a party, iron them with a Bible shaped iron and spit them out in that form to explain why someone who calls themselves evangelical should agree. Now that’s not all of their show at all. And I don’t even believe that is the heart of the hosts. But sometimes, it comes out that way. They were talking tough. And you know – as a parent – I get it. The point I came into the station to hear was something along the lines of “If we keep putting them up and helping them out – they’ll keep coming.. They’ll be put in danger of the bad traffickers: many will die before they even reach Mexico let alone our border, many will be enslaved and the folks sending them will keep doing it”. I agree with that point fully. (I’m not delving into issue #1 so that’s all I’ll say) but at the same time – that’s too easy of an answer. It doesn’t talk about the cost of sending them back. The cost to them. I see some folks saying we should just electrify the fence or shoot them or fire at them and send them back. But that has a view point of these kids as not human beings. You know the more I think about it and the more I see a few things my “social media friend” and brother in Christ, Jon Speed a Pastor out of New York and co-producer of the Babies Are Murdered Here video mention a few things – the more I see a striking similarity to the language and dehumanizing here that happens to babies in the womb. The more I see the kids I hear my friend Andy Leonard talks about when he visited the dump in Honduras. The more I see the destitute people I’ve heard Paul Washer talk about from his mission trips. The more I think of the abandoned babies I was able to hold and rock in a hospital in Western Ukraine recently. The more I think of these – the more I realize that once you lose empathy and dehumanize a situation – the easier it is to argue against something and take a stand that otherwise you may not have taken.

I often love the Dr. Seuss quote when thinking of the unborn. “People are people – no matter how small.” But they are also people no matter how hurt, how messed up, how hardened, and how rotten their circumstances are.

I know this even more because I’ve been to an orphanage where a lot of hurt kids are. I’ve hugged, held hands and chatted with teenagers trapped by an orphanage and adoptive system geared towards better success for placing younger children with families because they are cuter, cuddlier, “easier” kids who have more “impressionable years” left to them. We’ve chosen to adopt a teenager and are in process with another one – because God doesn’t give up on someone because of their circumstances. God stole my heart by His grace when I was a real jerk of a 20-something. Going nowhere but down into the gutters of partying and selfishness.

So.. That’s a long intro. And I’ve still not begun. But that explains a bit of my heart

The Issue

These kids on the border. They’ve broken our immigration laws. We have to stop allowing our immigration laws to be broken. We have to stop encouraging (however we are and I don’t get the dynamics there fully but we seem to be doing something to encourage them to go on what reportedly, for many, amounts to a death or rape or violence filled journey) them to come across. We have to stem the flow. For sure.

But the kids who are here. We have to do better by them. We shouldn’t let the left politicize them as some sort of justification for liberalization of our immigration laws – nations that go too loose there end up in trouble for it later.. We shouldn’t let the right politicize them as some sort of justification to send them back instantly, arrest and detain them or to beat up our President. Instead – we have to do right by them.

Now right may look like eventual deportation. It may look like finding the folks in the US who are here illegally who paid for or encouraged the journey and making them become right with immigration law. I don’t know what that looks like. I don’t know if that is amnesty. I don’t know if that is deporting and then being allowed to start process, I don’t know. But these kids have short term needs and long term needs. The long term needs are sadly going to be politicized and battled over and as long as we feed in and regurgitate talking points it will never amount to what is probably best (whatever that is) because no one will shut up and listen and discuss long enough to figure out what is best.

But right now. At this moment. There are some hurting kids who have come to America for some reason or another. A nation that us evangelicals say is a “Christian nation” a nation, we say, that is founded on “Judeo-Christian values”.  A nation that is called the land of opportunity by patriotic Americans like myself. There are some hurting kids in a really bad spot. The government is doing wrong by them because they have overwhelmed a system that is not designed to care for an influx of children here alone. The politicians are either avoiding them, using them as fodder for their cause or screaming about sending them back and letting the door hit them on the way out.

I hate to ask this because it always sounds like a corny/flippant question. But I have to wonder

WWJD?

What would Jesus do? He likes the law. His Bible talks a lot about the importance of government and civil obedience.

Perhaps Romans 13:1-5 speaks most clearly here:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

 

But again. I’m not talking about that part. I’m talking about what do we do with those kids here. I don’t mean we as a country necessarily, either. I firmly believe that if the Church in America didn’t have the problem that I described here – that we would not need to worry about the government impact of these kids in this transitory time while the government solves government sized problems (stopping them from starting that journey and how to process the ones here best). [ About government sized problems – what I mean is – these kids are one at a time needs. Individual needs. They need to be loved on and helped one at a time each in the way that is right for them. The government stinks at one sized fits all situations. That’s why so many state run orphanages around the world are such horrible horrible places. The families who are hurting need to be helped individually and uniquely. The kids who are truly orphans need to be helped one at a time. This isn’t one 30,000+ kid problem. It is 30,000 one kid problems..]

So as Christians. As evangelicals what do we do with someone who needs help. Maybe even someone who in some sense may have put themselves in the situation (I’m not passing judgment or implying any, some, most or all did, I don’t know the individual stories, just the picture MSNBC or FoxNews paint on either side).

I don’t believe most of these kids are orphans. But in a sense they are temporarily stuck in that position.

James has this to say about orphans (bolded) and a few other topics that we would all do well to hear – even related to this issue:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.  Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:19-27

Now the arguments will fly at the Orphan term. Arguments that I understand and could even levy myself. “They aren’t orphans!” “Just send them back to their parents!” “Put them on the train they got here on!”

May be some good arguments hidden in those quotes. And in talking about the “other issue” they have some weight. But again I’m talking about us evangelicals. Us Christians who hold signs and protest the slaughter of our neighbors at abortion clinics.

Orphans? Temporary check.

In Affliction? Definitely.

So James – just got done telling me that faith without works is dead. He just got done telling me that I better not just be a hearer of the Word but a doer.

Not just James. Here is Paul on caring for others:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:3-8

In humility, consider others more significant than myself. Don’t just look to my interests but also to the interests of others. Keep in mind the sacrifice Christ made. The one who had all the reason in the world to pull out the “DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM!?!” card. The one who had all the authority to say “Pfft! You?! You are a lousy, no good tax collector who robs from the people, you line your own pockets and you mock the precepts I’ve taught you” – yet He emptied Himself of this – He became a servant and served the least of society. The lowest of society. His example was self sacrificial. He prayed for the same people who spit on Him. He went into the lives and sufferings of those who despised Him. He didn’t accept sin. He didn’t free people from consequences of wrong actions. He wouldn’t ignore the “other issue” – but he would put at least as much emphasis on the current pain and hurt. He humbled Himself to become a curse on behalf of the people who once mocked Him. He humbled Himself on the cross for a sinner like me who told some of the most awful jokes about Him before I was His.

I look to those examples. And I wrap them up in the stories of the Old Testament – like the principle of gleaning leftovers from the harvest. Leaving some harvest behind for those who had nothing to come and glean. They didn’t plant the harvest. They didn’t buy the land. But God instructed the farmers to leave the corners of the land unharvested for them anyway.

I look to words of wisdom like this in Proverbs 28:27 –  “Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.”

I look to these things and I see examples and precepts that say that while the government may have some legal affairs to attend to.. The church has some affairs of its own to attend to here.

I see this all wrapped up in Jesus’ command in Luke 9:23 (and elsewhere in the Gospels) And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

He is the author of the Bible. He is the incarnate Word. These principles are His principles. Those kids on the border are all created in the image of His father. They may not all come to know Him – but they still wear God’s image. They are, as I talked about in this post, all our neighbors. And God makes no mistake about what we are to do for our neighbors when they are in need.

In Closing

I don’t know what should happen to these kids legally. I don’t care to share with you what I think of the situations and events that caused them to be lured here seeking what it is they seek. I don’t like that this situation is created, while families doing adoption legally have to go through so much paperwork and money to bring their kids in the legal way. But what I do know is that – people are people no matter how small. And people are people no matter how their background. And I know that they need to be ministered to. They should hear the Gospel. They should see the Gospel in action. They should be helped, loved, fed and taken care of while the bigger questions are handled.

Pat Robertson can talk about the curses on America because of abortion. And make no mistake – I am 100% confident that God looks down on us and sees us killing those unborn babies bearing His image and He must not be happy about it. He will not be patient forever with us.. But I don’t know how we can talk about the curse we deserve because of that while at the same exact time let our politicians rev us up into a fire about those kids at the border and come at them with pitchforks and torches with the attitude of “good for nothing stealers. Get out of our country and go back home” and dismiss their real trials, situations and woes as nothing to be affected by. I don’t get that.

Here is an opportunity for the church to arise. Go and help those in need. Save the yelling for after. Save the anger for trying to talk politicians into getting along and stopping the dangerous journey here, but cover the ears of these kids while you yell.

I so want to put a million caveats here, but I’ll just end it and risk being misunderstood by both sides of the issue.

Edomites in the Wilderness.. Who is My Neighbor?

Deuteronomy 2
Yesterday I started reading Deuteronomy. Today I was reading in Deuteronomy 2 and something hit me from the below section. I don’t have any great commentary of Deuteronomy in my possession  but from looking in a few of the standard ones the web has available, I don’t think what hit me is too far off or incorrect. This is the section:

‘You have been traveling around this mountain country long enough. Turn northward and command the people, “You are about to pass through the territory of your brothers, the people of Esau, who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. So be very careful. Do not contend with them, for I will not give you any of their land, no, not so much as for the sole of the foot to tread on, because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession. You shall purchase food from them with money, that you may eat, and you shall also buy water from them with money, that you may drink. For the LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He knows your going through this great wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you. You have lacked nothing.” Deuteronomy 2:3-7 (ESV)

I’ve bolded what really slapped me in the face reading.

The people from Esau – the Edomites – shared a lineage with the Israelites to Isaac but they were different tribes. Jacob, Esau’s brother received the birthright, his name eventually became Israel – and his people, the Israelites were God’s covenant people.

Maybe it’s because the concept of common grace is on my mind from a Sproul podcast I listened to this week and I’m sensitive to looking for examples – but this struck me as an example of common grace. The grace poured out on all humanity – whether an individual receives saving grace or not. The grace found for example in the bellow passage – speaking about God:

“For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:45b

 

This recounting from Moses of the wanderings that took place in the book of Numbers shows me some things…

– God gave Esau a possession and would not permit His chosen people, Israel, to take that claim away from the Edomites.

– In fact He told Moses to try to engage in business with them and buy food and drink (See Numbers 20 14-20 to see how that worked out).

– I may be off the mark here and if I am I thank you in advance for correction and instruction – but it seems like God said in some sense – “Let them keep the land I’ve given them, try to engage in business with them – at least partially because you’ve lacked no necessity all this time out here, you have my presence and my help, you’ve been blessed significantly.”

– Here and in Numbers 20 – the term “brothers” was used. Brothers in lineage. Perhaps brothers in being fellow nomadic people at that time. But brothers.

This doesn’t mean in the sense of an adoption into God’s family like those called unto salvation are through the adoption in Christ.. But it strikes me as similar in sense to the question that sparked the parable of the good Samaritan “Who is my neighbor?” In response to Jesus’ bold proclamation about the two greatest commandments on which the law hangs:

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39

God Has It Under Control

The Edomites did meet an end. They dwindled and disappeared. They fought against Israel, were subjugated under Israel and you don’t meet Edomites today. The land of Edom is uninhabited today as prophesied in Ezekiel. But this befell Edom in God’s timing and His plans. There is a lesson to me there also about not stepping in and thinking myself to be a judge or to know the mind of God that I could make a judgment on my own where such a judgment is not clear in scripture. This doesn’t mean a reading of Matthew 7 that stops at “Judge not” and rips the rest up.. There are places where we are clearly called to speak His truth, to proclaim what He says about sin and to rightly divide His Word and apply it. This does not mean I cannot go to an abortion mill and talk about the suffering and misery that is child sacrifice or tell a friend they are in danger of His judgment. But I mean – I can’t go and make my own rules and apply them. I don’t need to go above and beyond and assume what God wants. I can follow His Word and stay plenty busy working out my own sanctification and being the dad and husband I am called to be.

Well Timed Assault

This passage hits me after I was an idiot on Facebook. I shared a news story about discrimination and religious liberty meeting head on. And I argued with the first responses that came in, lost sight of the discussion and just kept arguing.

I won’t dredge the original story up or the point I was making in sharing. I have since deleted the post because I found myself defending myself and being defensive needlessly and that looked like a hole being dug deeper. Perhaps James was speaking about me and he meant my fingers on a keyboard or my thumbs on the phone where he spoke about the tongue all those times… And I won’t get into what I feel about that original story – because it is actually complex.

But what I will say is these passages made me think and they reminded me about three things:

  • I don’t deserve the saving grace I received. Like the Israelites in the wilderness, I’ve been blessed far beyond my deserve. I’ve murmored at times. I’ve worried often. I get angry. I get defensive. I can look at manna and grumble, “that’s it?! I want something tastier.”
  • Common Grace is here because of God’s agents – He does want to use us to confront the culture we find ourselves in. He doesn’t want us to conform and accept what is acceptable. He calls us to speak out in defense of those who need it. He calls us to share the Gospel Truth with a lost and dying world that His elect may hear and believe. But he also calls us to live selflessly. I know this, and I try to do this. I fail in many ways, and by His grace succeed in others. But as I blogged about before here – I think the church in America needs a lot of work here.. Hard to have a voice when we aren’t His instruments of giving common grace to a world that is decaying and dying. When we get lose on legalistic thinking and creating too many litmus tests this mission falters. (Some litmus tests are important and needed for sure. There are things I would rather lose my business over or be in jail over if ever put in a position of deciding. We are to be a holy people and separate over more than many liberal churches decide to.. But on the other hand when partiality, legalism and finger pointing free from introspection creeps up we should be scared.. I tow that line too closely sometimes, I see that)
  • My Neighbor Is Who I Least Think It Is – The Edomites weren’t real nice to the Israelites here in the wilderness. They didn’t exactly have a favorable history either. Even God Himself said He had chosen Jacob over Esau – for the purposes of His will. If ever there was a group that someone reading between the lines of God’s Word could have made a case for – it probably could have been at least stealing some water from those people.