Posts Tagged ‘Justice’

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?

 

 

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Temptations of Jesus, Pt. 4

Temptations_of_Christ_(San_Marco)If we’re willing to reject the temptations of Satan, along with Jesus and by the power His Spirit brings through us, big things can happen. All over the world, March 9th was acknowledged as “FREEDOM SUNDAY”. God’s people are being broken for the sake of the poor and lonely, the imprisoned, the trafficked, and the powerless. You see, when humanity gives into the temptations Satan has offered Jesus here…this is what happens. Other people become consumed. Walked on. Imprisoned as objects. Treated like animals.

When we believe that inanimate objects are more important than living faithfully – people (our brothers and sisters) become sacrificed on the altar of low prices. Most of the products you and I use on a daily basis were made from materials and minerals taken from countries where laborers are paid next to nothing – if they’re even paid at all. Now I’m not gonna call us to boycott a specific store, give up clothes, and stop using cell phones. But I am going to ask you – when’s the last time you prayed for those communities? When’s the last time you treated someone the world called “insignificant” with the significance Jesus gives them by dying on their behalf?

Just one of the many reasons our family is in the midst of an adoption process, is to give a voice to the voiceless. To tell a story about a place and a people who are being taken advantage of by the world, and call God’s people to pray. Because as we see in the Lords’ Prayer – how we pray, leads us to how we live.

And that’s only the first temptation. How about the second? When we let go of all that God’s done, and all that God will do in the future – living only according to what it seems like God is doing right now in this moment – it can lead us to wrong thinking. It can make us lose hope, and forget all that God has done. It can seem incredibly hopeless for the 30 Million slaves living in our world today, and those of us who are enslaved by behaviors or sins that we need God to provide freedom from. Instead, we remember that God has provided freedom, and will provide complete freedom and healing someday for every single of the 30 million. Until then…we lift them in prayer, and support organizations and movements that embrace bringing freedom and release from bondage, wherever and however it exists. Even something as simple as sponsoring a child through ICCM can save a child from becoming a slave tomorrow. How is your life connected to Christ bringing freedom in our world?

And finally, the third temptation. The temptation to see statistics like “30 Million”, or Bible verses like “For all have sinned and fall short”, and throw our hands up saying, “We give up.” This is giving value, and bowing to something that does NOT deserve our worship. We believe in a God who is Lord over ALL creation. A God who has provided release from sin and bondage both NOW and FOREVER. We will not worship the forces of evil that pretend to be in control, but we will boldly declare by our life and resources today, GO AWAY SATAN. You have no right to declare ANYTHING over my life. God has already declared powerful words of Love, Grace, Release from Sin, and New Creation, and those are the words that will reign.

And in response, the devil will leave…and we will find ourselves in the midst of those serving God together. The whole world will be transformed as we go out into creation as those who have been set free in Christ. Will you allow yourself to be “of freedom”?  Will you respond as Jesus has, decide even now how you will live before temptation even comes to you?

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.

both sides.

A few years ago I was able to preach on Luke’s story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). I feel like it went well Sunday morning, with two services of asking ourselves who the Lazarus in our own lives might be? And also asking ourselves what might be the “gates” in our lives…the things that are separating us from those God is calling us to love towards Him. (economic, social, status, schedule, etc…) Some gates we create, and some gates are just “there” by nature of the world we live in.

image(4)As usual, those who preach Sunday morning, are usually called on to preach for our food pantry service on Monday morning. I was excited to have a 3rd opportunity. 🙂 But in prayer Monday morning, I realized that the message I was about to preach needed a shift in focus. Many of those who came to the service that morning were the “Lazarus” on the other side of the worlds’ gates. I spent a few quick moments trying to rework the approach.

We hear from time to time that the Gospel message is best understood by those who are oppressed, disenfranchised, suffering, outcast and downtrodden. That morning, I’m not sure if I understood it in a new light….but preaching it sure was a lot more exciting than it had been on Sunday.

God had me speak about the coming Kingdom…the coming “overturning” of this world’s structures and economy. The redemption of how all things work. The fact that God was with Lazarus in this world AND after….and no matter how sometimes we wish things in our lives would work out like what we see through our “gates”…..God is with us…..and THAT is a pretty exciting thing to be reminded of.

I think most of us have moments/seasons of both identities throughout our lives.

Sometimes we’re Lazarus. We are hurting, suffering, alone, in need….and we look through gates of (finances, social status, employment, titles, popularity, etc.) and we wish we had what was on the other side. But God is with us.

Other times we’re the rich man. We’re doing pretty good. Things with our (finances, social status, employment, titles, popularity, etc.) are going so well that we forget about those on the other side of that “gate”. God calls us to remember those….and that by our solidarity with them…we are with Christ.

In Truth, no matter what side of what “gates” of this world we land on….it’s important to remember that in the economy of Christ…the structure of the Kingdom….the curtain has been ripped down the middle.

How we live in view of that will affect a multitude of eternities…many of them growing up within our walls…

not guilty?

“Not guilty”

the verdict flashes, and the masses don’t take long for their chance to pounce

To own just an ounce of the minutes that come after, to be a voice in the chatter

To say the one thing that remains unsaid, but the fact remains –

Someone is dead.

Someone died at the hands of another, a mother lost her son,

a gun that ripped through more than flesh and marrow,

but through the narrow veins of racism still pulsing through a nation

still committed to pretending it’s United. It’s invited all sorts of analytics, and politics, and tricks

of logic boosted by words spoken with great emotion.

All the while it’s simply a stream leading to an ocean.

There’s a larger problem than this case, or that person, or that issue

Something worth wetting more than single tissues,

Worth mourning floods and wails of confession,

and worth both individual and communal confessions

of we.

We’re comforted by pronouns that point the finger, the fact that guilty feelings never linger as long as we keep tuned in to the latest thing, the latest stream of others doing worse than what we’ve done.

But we’ve become numb, and so dumb – unable to speak for our lack of practice, but the fact is

We have a choice, and we’ve chosen against those without voice.

We strive for dreams labeled by nationality, but in reality an empty promise,

and throwing Doubting Thomas off the boat…see if he’ll float.

Authors wrote about days like these, and called them “last”.

But don’t move too fast, and twist my words into a chance to merchandise,

Rather, view this moment with new eyes…

Let the blasts of accusations fade, even the ones most recently made as the feed ticks slowly by

Your need to reply, or question why goes slowly the way of realizing the ocean beyond the stream.
See what I mean?

In the silence that follows, find solace in the hollows of comments never made

Take shade from the torrents of words and emotions, pray over that ocean.

Because even though the words spoken were “not guilty”, there is not end to what has happened

Neither was this the beginning, as our grip on morality is thinning

We realize it was not he, but we, who were on trial.

And We. Are. Guilty.

But there. Is. Grace.

Amazing.

Seek His Face.

(To hear this spoken by a young man who used to be a student in my youth ministry, click here!!!!)

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