Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

A new perspective on the “Good Samaritan”

In Luke chapter 10, an expert in the law stands up to ask Jesus a question. The purpose of the original question seems to be in “testing Jesus”. It may be that he wants to reveal Jesus as a false prophet. By asking “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”, it’s possible he was trying to catch Jesus in saying that something other than being a Jew can lead us into being a “child of God”, and thus worthy of the inheritance. We know that a lot of people were trying to catch Jesus in a moment of blasphemy against the Law, and yet in true Jesus fashion – He totally turns the tables.

With impressive rhetoric, Jesus asks the man a question in response, “What is written in the law?” The man answers proudly with his knowledge, and as Jesus pats him on the head in verse 28 the man remembers his original intent. Still wanting to test Jesus, and justify his original question, he asks for clarification, “And who is my neighbor?”

In response this time, Jesus tells the story we know as “The Good Samaritan.” He closes by tying the story to the original question by the expert in the law. Earlier it was stated, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Here we have Jesus pointing out that the assumed definition of “Neighbor” (any member of the Hebrew nation/commonwealth) fell short of this new movement the followers of Christ were proclaiming. Here, the main character we assume was a Jew (heading from Jerusalem to Jericho seems to point that way). The character in the story who had the most in common with him in regards to loving (Luke 10:27) ends up being the Samaritan. Even though there was a long history of tension and conflict between their people (and remains still today), Jesus is pointing out there is a grouping of people that goes beyond national boundaries or allegiance to human leaders. There is a foundational difference in the hearts of those who are living from the Love of God. This brings us together beyond any worldly division of culture or ethnicity. It melts away any prejudice we may have, for the purposes of God’s Love, mercy, and compassion.


Now, maybe the Samaritan knew this was a Jew. Scripture tells us he was “attacked by robbers…stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.” Maybe there were torn clothes nearby, or he noticed the man was circumcised (if he was naked). But it’s also possible the Samaritan was simply doing what he would do for anyone, whether friend, brother, or enemy of his people. His citizenship was in the Kingdom of God, which means that he was someone for whom “Love” was his native language. Love for all.

So was Jesus challenging the expert in the law to love “like” the Samaritan, showing mercy and compassion to even those who are broken, bleeding, and lying in the street? Or was Jesus challenging the expert in the law to admit that even here, in the people of Samaria, there can be those who are understanding what this Kingdom of God’s Love looks like?

It sure seems like the latter. Jesus was pulling back the curtain, opening the shades, and clarifying the unexpected Truth for this expert in the law – there may be more invited to this “who’s in?” party than you originally thought.

What are the implications here for us?

There are many, but here are a few thoughts: The Samaritan was so motivated by Love, he wasn’t worried about the terms of this world. Whether touching the man on the street would make him unclean or not, or whether they agreed politically or not, were not important issues. He was motivated first by Love. The opposite seems true of this political expert, who seems to try and catch Jesus in a moment of heresy. He has been living according to “who’s in” and “who’s out” for so long, he wanted to help catch Jesus off guard. But the heart of God is not stuck in the patterns and molds we like to form equations by. We cannot reduce becoming a child of God to a stamp of approval, a “sinners prayer”, or a purity ring. By doing so, we fail to love our neighbors who may already know more about actual Love than we do.

This story invites us to let go of sitting in a room deciding what we can do to be people who are “in”, and go out into a world of hungry, beaten, slaves to proclaim freedom, resurrection life, and sustenance. As Bob Goff has written, “Love Does”.

So how does this story offer to challenge our local churches? I think most of our local churches would be quick to tell you how much love God has for the poor. They know God loves the broken, the drug-addicted, and the alcoholic just released from prison. They’ll welcome them any day of the week, and proclaim God’s Love. The challenge in this story might be a bit harder to pinpoint, and might vary from family to family. Decatur is a city with quite a few ethnicities, cultures, and religions. It would be a pretty big “zing” for our people to admit some of these people who know nothing about Christ might in fact be living with more love for others. So what is it about our practices, our unspoken rules, and the ways we do church….are keeping us from existing and being known from our love for all others?

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Reaching out, again…

Okay friends & family, it’s finally that time again.  I can’t give all the details in a public post, but if you’d like to know more please give me a call.  (And no, in case you’re trolling here, we’re not preparing to go around the DRC Government in ANY way.   We love and respect the people of hte DRC, and look forward to a life of our family being invested in their future.)  In any case, we’ve hit a point in our adoption where we need to raise more funds.

Yes, the country is still not issuing “Exit Letters”, until new laws/processes are in place to better protect the children.  We are continuing to move forward within the country, through the parts of the process still allowed, believing that we want to be as ready as possible when those doors open once again.  This also means providing for her care in the meantime.7a5b3-andersonst-louis2011384

Even in the midst of significant wait and what seems to be a hopeless road, there have been great steps moving toward us bringing home this child we’ve been praying over 2 years for.  We are so thankful for the generosity and prayers of so many of you.  We’ve even added something new for your fundraising enjoyment!!

1. Wick’s BandCamp Page –  Trying something new!   Here you will be able to buy individual spoken words, as well as a couple songs I threw on there for fun.  100% of every dollar goes toward our adoption fund!   I’ve plenty more spoken words that will eventually be uploaded if ya’ll like these.  If I only sell a couple, I’ll just tell my mom thanks and move on.  🙂

2.  Amazon Books – Both my self-published parenting book and the Children’s Book we created with our kids are available for digital purchase on Amazon.com.   A large chunk of every sale comes right to me, and goes directly into our adoption fund!

3. Giving through “Both Hands” – Since the very beginning with our first service project, they’ve been our most popular method of giving/receiving funds for this adoption.  Donations are tax deductible, and you can mail them a check or simply give online!!

As you’re preparing for the Holidays, we hope & pray you’ll consider one of these options. Even in place of sending us a Christmas card, just download an mp3 and send me a video of you laughing at it. 🙂  Or in place of a gift, throw a few bucks out to “Both Hands”, and e-mail me a Merry Christmas.  But above all, please continue to pray.  Not just for our family or our children, but pray for the entire DRC.  Pray for their government and their leaders, as their senate continues to meet.  Pray for the areas where rebels continue to break out in fighting.  Pray for those who are overlooked in the shuffle and quest for power and influence.  Pray for the stability and future of these beautiful people, and the preservation of their rich heritage in the midst of a world that is realizing more and more, the value of their nation.

need for confession and repentence…

Today’s an important day.  “Midterm Elections” are happening all over the US.  Here in our state, I’ve done the research.  A while back, I downloaded my county ballot, and began sifting through all of our choices.  Most cases that have two opponents seem to be “Choose the Candidate Who Makes You Gag Less Than the Other”.  It’s a very narrow margin of gag reflex, for the most part.  People who’ve been in power for many years, or people who have ridiculous amounts of money to spend.  Not that money or power equals corruption, but in our cultural context it certainly doesn’t help gain my support.  After all, the man I call Lord and Savior, as he was heading into his final “push”, seemed to be letting go of as much power/resources as possible.cost20141

So I think it’s important for us to collectively confess, we are a part of this brokenness.  That as much as we love our country, and value the freedoms that others gave their lives for us to enjoy, we have not created something inherently “Holy” out of it.  We never could.  Claiming Jesus in national documents, and even attempts to legislate morality will never make us a Christ-centered nation.

This was not even the “big” election, yet rough estimates show that over $4 BILLION was spent on campaigning this year.  Only slightly over the amount spent in 2010, we see that this is not unusual.  In 2012, the same amount was spent, PLUS another almost $3 Billion in presidential campaigning.  That means every four years, we see about $7 Billion being spent on parties fighting & arguing over who gets the votes.  To what end?  A few more years of having slightly more influence before having to spend billions of dollars once again to either stay, or get, in power.

What could be done with this much money in other areas of need?  CNN says $4 Billion alone could pay for 12,000 students to be educated from K-12th grades, with millions leftover for a graduation party.  Obviously there are a lot more children than that, and even needs like poverty, hunger, and disease are far too large for a few billion dollars to wipe out.  But it can still be said, as a country we are spending FAR too much money on political campaigning.  Even where there are laws to safeguard against special interest groups, donors and powers are finding ways to connect the dots.  We must confess that we are a country with selfishness and ego, and are collectively making a statement that politics and attempts to control/influence power are more important to us than serving the poor and powerless.  Even those who might take a stand, saying that millions of dollars are going to advocate for a candidate who might eventually be able to take a stand for the oppressed – must admit, this is not the best path to such transformation.

So what do most of us do?  We see a broken system, but most of us aren’t connected to the actual brokenness of it all.  Hearing the ads, maybe putting a sign in our lawn, and casting a vote is the most many of us might do.  (Predictions say around 40% will even vote.)  Less than 0.2% of the 310 Million Americans give more than $200 to any campaign.  That’s 620,000 people.  But over 66% of what has been given comes from sources that give more than this.  The maximum one person can give is (officially) $2,600.  How many people gave at least that?  93,000 people.  The percentages certainly make it seem smaller than it is, as 700,000 people giving large amounts is still a pretty good group of contributors.  The largest numbers come from the top, of course, where donations come in the form of Millions of dollars.  The top 20 contributors alone gave about $169 Million.  Sigh.  this is actually a long road to travel, and I think I’ve lost myself even if I have any readers left…

Kinda makes you frustrated, eh?  Gets your blood boiling?  That a country with so much need could throw away so much money on something so fleeting as the next election?  Good thing we’re not a part of anything that puts giant financial contributions above the needs of the poor and powerless…..right?

Oh wait…(NFL makes over $10 Billion annually)

So yeah….we have a need for a National outpouring of confession.  We need to repent (turn away from) these things, and turn toward God.  Not only in heart, but in what we give our time and resources to…

What does that look like?

 

 

giving God our scrapple.

We were on vacation, and Sarah had found the restaurant using one of them hip-trendy restaurant-finder Apps.  It was ranked #1 in the area, so we knew anything on the menu was going to knock it out of the park.  As we looked over the choices, we realized the reason it was so highly ranked was probably because they served just about everything you could imagine.  Among the choices, there were several options I’d never heard of.  Always the adventurous type, I decided to take a chance:

Me: Hmm, so what is this “Scrapple”?

Waitress: Well, you know how hotdogs are made out of the leftovers of meat?  Scrapple is made out of the scraps scrappleleftover after hotdogs are made.  Absolutely nothing goes to waste.  Then they add some cornmeal, and season it up.  I grew up eating it.

Me: Sounds great.  I’ll take some.

My stomach an hour later:  (shaking it’s fist at me)  Whhhyyyyyyy!!!!!????

You know what would’ve been great for breakfast that morning?  Ham.  Yeah, ham definitely would’ve been awesome.  I think God knew that as a people, we’d become more and more okay with serving our “lastfruits” not only as an item for breakfast, but as our worship and sacrifice to Him.  We have the commitments we’ve made with each day, whether work or home or play, and somewhere in between all the important stuff, if we really love him, we’ll carve out a few minutes for a devotional or Bible reading.

We’ll stay out/up late Saturday night doing whatever we want, make plans for Sunday afternoon, and feel great about shoving the family in the van – everyone too tired to know exactly what’s going on.  Blurry eyed, we’ll make it through service, check “Sabbath” off our list, and make it to lunch/etc. just in time.

Or the one I’m most guilty of, we’ll arrange our finances.  Make commitments for a lifestyle that fits the American Dream in our context, and with whatever’s left we’ll try to get close to 10%….or something…to give as our offering to God.

I say all of this not as a pastor trying to bring guilt on other church-goers, but as a fellow scrapple-server, realizing I want to give God ham. (I realize the irony in serving God what was traditionally an “unclean animal”…oh well.)  I want to give God the first moments of my day, when my brain is firing well.  I want to give God my focus and energy as if communion with the body of Christ at the banquet table of His Word is the most important aspect of my Sabbath.  I want to give to God sacrificially, making choices to deny myself bits of “The American Dream”, so that I can experience the blessings of being completely yielded to Him.

But instead so many times I offer him my scrapple.  I give to him whatever I’ve got left after I’ve cut out the bits and pieces I really needed for other things.  I’m so incredibly thankful for His grace, and the smile on His face.  As he takes the plate from me, and looks down at what I offer.  He loves what I’ve given.  He eats my scrapple.  He gently reminds me of the pattern He set, offering the very best to us.  He hasn’t left the table…but waits with a loving smile, expectantly….(Proverbs 3:9)

Adoption and Men…

When entering the “world” of adoption conversations, especially when you connect to a blog/Facebook group/other online conversation, you’ll quickly notice the primary voices are women.  Certainly God uses “a mothers heart” in many cases, and speaks into a family through the bride.  In other times, it might be the “fathers heart” that He uses to tug toward adoption.  But even in cases where the couple is equally engaged/pulled toward reaching out to the orphan, most often it seems the mother is the one “out there” with the topic, connecting with others and having conversations about the process.  There are a few reasons that stand out as to why this may be happening:

1. Adoption involves a lot of emotion.  Like, gobbs.  The waiting, the picture updates, how far away this child is from you physically, etc.  And as we all know, emotions are for women.  (tongue in cheek)  Even as young boys, men are trained to have Jedi-like control over their emotions.  When someone is being “emotional”, we instantly feel they’re not being “manly”…whatever that might mean.  So even though a man may feel it, they’ll probably keep most of it to themselves.  There’s also a big chance, that even though they care deeply about what’s happening, they don’t have theimage words or the need to put into words all they’re feeling.   That’s because…

2. Men easily compartmentalize.  “The amygdala is a part of the brain that controls our emotional responses. In men, the amygdala communicates with just a few parts of the brain, like the visual cortex and part of the brain responsible for movement. (source: Lloyd) It’s like the amygdala is a power strip, and men have just one appliance plugged in. In comparison, a woman’s power strip is fueling many different appliances. In women, the amygdala is more connected to parts of the brain that control language, which may be why women talk about their feelings. It’s also linked to parts of the brain that control bodily functions like heart rate, blood pressure and digestion, which may be why women get a stomachache or other bodily response when they’re stressed or worried. In comparison, men seem to compartmentalize and show no outward display of emotion. But men still experience all the same emotions that women do, they just don’t cope with them in the same way.” (stolen from a science-ish website)

3. Adoption is much more emasculating than men realize when they “sign up” for it.  It’s sounds like the great plot for a manly story.  “Man helps his family reach out to the other side of the world, where a young child is in need of rescue, he helps bring them home and increases the size and heart of his own family (Christians add here “in the name of Jesus”).”  It’s totally a “knight in shining armor” type thing.  But then the journey actually begins.  He realizes he doesn’t have the finances to do it alone, and has to go around asking others to help.  He’s told by the agency “All of those natural fatherly desires you have to go and do whatever it takes to help your case move forward and bring your child home?  Let ’em go.  We represent you, and it’s in the best interest of everyone for you to let us do so.”  It’s probably true.  With the amount of extortion and corruption trying to seep into international adoptions, it’s really good to have people with experience and dedication to what’s best for the nation and children.

With these elements, and many more being thrown into the mix…our responses are important:

Wives – Understand the differences about how this adoption process impacts you and your husband.  Offer grace when he doesn’t seem geeked out about gushing his adoptive emotions over coffee.  Love him by asking specific questions, give him time to respond…and don’t expect a book.  Pray with him.  Help him connect whatever part of the process you’re in to his manly quest.  Sure, he may not be able to ride over there on a horse and scoop up your child – but he can certainly put on his shining armor and head out to the fingerprints office.  Be thankful that he can breathe slow and steady when you feel all out of sorts, and how God’s heart is reflected in such steadiness.

Husbands – Understand the differences about how this adoption process impacts you and your wife.  Offer grace when it seems she’s carrying a giant heavy burden…because she is.  When seemingly out of nowhere, she tells you how hard it is to endure all of this, and wonders if you even care.  This is your chance to be as manly as you were hoping you could be.  Not by rescuing your child just yet…but by scooping up your wife.  Reassure her.  Pray with her.  Use that focused amygdala to your advantage, and let her cry on your shoulder.  Dig deep into the compartment of adoption emotions and try to communicate what you’re feeling to her.  Be thankful for the depths of her emotions, and see how Gods’ heart is reflected in their mystery and force.

trendy witches?

A new article in “Newsweek” recently caught my attention, talking about a growing number of young people (teens through 30’s) who are interested & participate in the occult/witchcraft.  I’ll be honest…most of the time when someone starts talking to me about witchcraft, or the occult, or even the “wiccan” people….I have flashes of this movie play in my head:

But apparently, it’s gotten more hip.  At least, in big cities that define “hipness” for the rest of us.  I’m not too worried, really.  A news-source is supposed to do what it takes to tell stories that sell more copies.  Getting the general public worried about witches, or making the average Joe who’s looking for something new that’s socially acceptable….will definitely move issues.  Especially around Halloween.

But what caught my attention was toward the end when they had statements from a woman who’d recently moved to Brooklyn.  First she says, “It’s embarrassing to admit you’re religious….But I think a lot of people my age are sick of being nihilistic.  Spirituality is a lot cooler.”  (nihilism = believes values are baseless, and nothing can be known…denies all established authority and institutions)

So she and many others in our culture have thankfully come to realize the result of nihilism…and how empty that approach is to…well, anything.  But to jump from that to the trendiness of a vague “spirituality” definitely seems to be the move our culture is making.  Whether you follow this article as highlighting an actual trend, or you look out your window…we know people are searching for “something”….and it’s much more socially acceptable to keep calling it “something” than Jesus.

Unfortunately, we find a result toward the end of her interview…as she follows up with:  “It’s hard to say if anyone is actually invested in any of this occult stuff they meddle in…it almost devastates me to say this, but daily life can be so mundane.  Applying thematics of epicness to your life makes it more exciting.”

It’s amazing how spot on she is, and yet because of her rejection of “traditional religion”, she’s missing out on the “epicness” of a life lived for Christ, and joining God in His story of redemption/New Creation.

More than anything, her statements and this article can be an encouraging invitation.  Our world is recognizing now more than ever the internal desire to be a part of something much grandeur than ourselves.  Something powerful.  Something that I can actually live for…instead of just wait to die for.  May we, our families, and our churches continue to be places where the story of God is happening in ways that testify to the power of His Spirit…the Love of God….and the New Creation possible in Jesus Christ.  No goat-leggings required.  🙂

hard sell?

I’m a pretty good salesman.  I’m also a horrible salesman.  It depends on what you’re measuring, I suppose.  When we first followed God’s call & relocated closer to family, I took a couple different sales jobs.  I volunteered at a small church in town, and learned what it was like working 9-5 (or 8-6, as it often was).  A few months was spent in Radio Advertising, and almost a year was with Pitney Bowes, selling “postage meters/folding machines/etc”.  I was pretty good at connecting relationally with my customers.  I even closed deals.  I could talk excitedly about what I had to offer them, and honestly believed I could help them out.  But when they asked me for the best deal – I’d usually give it to them.  So even though I made sales, I wasn’t the profit-generating machine that was celebrated in the sales realm.

Because of working on the world of advertising/ROI and the like, my radar picks up on sales-pitchy things much more than legosit used to.  I shrink back quickly from anything that smells like being a “salesman for Jesus/Heaven/Youth Group/Church”.  Unfortunately, that’s a large percentage of what’s out there for people seeking Christ to consume.  Bible studies, self-help books, and small group curriculum all geared toward convincing/reminding humanity that to come to Christ is to come to the end to all of your problems.  To arrive at the doors of the church is to arrive at an oasis of plenty.  To believe in Jesus Christ is to have all your prayers answered, every day is a holiday, and every meal’s a feast.

In a broken world, that sounds awesome.  We’re in debt, and even credit is running out fast.  We realize that something better than what we’re experiencing must be out there.  So when the man with the Bible, the nice smile and smooth words tells us that coming to church (and perhaps buying his book) will help fill the void we’ve got, and open doors of potential we previously thought were closed….we’re quick to follow.  The problem comes after some time of believing.  Time of offering our devout faith to a God/Genie, and becoming frustrated when nothing we ask for happens.

You might be nodding while reading this, agreeing that yes – we need to be honest about our expectations.  We need to remember that a call to follow Christ, is a call to the cross.  That we’re not promised what we want will work out the way we plan, by simply “trusting really really hard”.  But at the same time, I want my children to know the Hope we have in Christ.  I want them to experience putting their faith in Him, and having a life transformed.  I suppose it all depends on what we emphasize:

1 – We could emphasize the wrong things to our 5 year old.  Tell her that God wants everything to go perfect for her, and if she invites Jesus into her heart, it will enable all her dreams to come true (Jeremiah 29:11, right?).  Or, we could take the threatening route and tell her that someday she’ll either spend forever in flames or in golden streets and whipped cream.  If she asks Jesus into her heart, she won’t have to burn.  Sure, these spiritual things are bigger/different, but it’s important to speak in a language they simply understand, right?

2 – We could be honest with our 5 year old from the very start.  Tell her that people have made some really bad choices, that make this world a hard place to live sometimes.  But tell her how God has moved in our family already, and how He’s calling & enabling us to be different.  That we can choose to love/forgive, even when it’s hard.  We can be humble, and look for ways to serve others & love our neighbors globally.  We can pray, and know that spending time in God’s presence changes us.  We ask him to fill us with His love, so that in the simple ways we live, God is changing the world.

Sometimes that will lead us down paths where people know our name and smile or applaud.  Other times it may lead us down paths where people know our name and angrily yell.   Still many more times it may mean know one knows our name, but God is with us.

We are never alone, and that seems to be a pretty big point to a savior who was called

“Immanuel – which means ‘God with us’. “

But in a culture where more and more churches and youth ministries are selling the fun/loud/exciting/blessing/health/prosperity/nice teeth/etc…it may become increasingly difficult to be heard.  Still…this is what we speak.

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