Friday, July 24, 2015

Value...

     I've been thinking a lot about value. What the world values is very different from what God values in terms of money, material possessions, the measure of success, and even in terms of humanity. As a Christ follower, I believe it's important that what I value lines up with what God values. Another words, I need to see it all through His eyes and have His understanding of things. That's why reading my Bible and spending time with Him are so important. It's only through the lens of His Word that I can get an accurate view and understanding of things. It's only by spending time with Him, really knowing Him, that what I value can become the same as what He values.

     There are many ways...too many ways, that what God values and what the world values are different. The differences I've been considering lately have to do with humanity. God's used a special little boy to encourage me to take a broader look at the differences. I first met the boy at our church food pantry. He was hiding behind his grandma when I asked if they wanted prayer. The grandmother responded to my question with "Yes! I need prayer because he is evil!".  I had never heard a parent or grandparent say something like that in front of a child before, and it really threw me. So much so, that I couldn't pray with her. So, I directed her to one of the other ladies that were waiting to pray with someone. In the mean time, the boy had taken off running in the church gym and I went after him.

    He was surprised to see me walking toward him and he stopped in his tracks.  I told him my name and said, "Do you know God loves you very much?" He didn't speak, just shook his head yes. I wanted to continue the conversation, to somehow let him know that he wasn't hopeless. I asked him another question, "Do you know that God has wonderful plans for your future, because He loves you so much?" Again, he shook his head yes. Shortly after that he and I walked over to where his grandma was standing and they left. I have had the privilege of spending time with him four times since, and every time I see him I tell him that God loves him and has great plans for his life.  Slowly, God is softening his grandma's heart and she no longer calls him evil. Perhaps she said that initially out of her own frustration and hopelessness. The boy is in fact, autistic. That doesn't matter to God... to the world it may matter. The world may see those with autism and feel hopeless because it only focuses on the challenges of being autistic. God values the person regardless. He still sees someone He created in His image, someone He loves. He still has great plans for their future. The world forgets the God of the impossible. The God who made this little boy has already made him incredible. There are things that only this little guy can contribute to this great big world of ours....and those contributions will surely make it a better place.  This little boy is valuable. He is a treasure. It's only when we focus solely on his challenges that what we value becomes more like what the world values and we fail to see his value through God's eyes.

     Sometimes we don't realize that what we value is the same thing that the world values. Sometimes we think we are standing up for what God values when in fact, what we are taking a stand on doesn't even line up with His Word. Christians tend to do this a lot out of fear. I saw a perfect example of this play out on social media this week. A brother in Christ stated that he felt the U. S. should close its borders to Muslim immigrants. This statement was made after the Chattanooga shootings. Although not all of the details are known yet, the shooter was a Muslim. This brother in Christ believes that closing our borders to Muslim immigrants will prevent these things from happening. He sees Islam as the root of the problem. He likened a decision to close the borders, to the U.S. closing its borders during World War 2 to Japanese immigrants.  He stated that every Muslim that comes to the U.S. has the potential to be radicalized and they will kill to honor their religion. It strikes me that closing U.S. borders to Muslims would be like closing Pennsylvania's borders to New Yorkers. Sure, I would be less likely to get killed in a car accident as I head to Walmart on a weekend, but I would also miss out on getting to know some really great people. Several of my friends are from New York, and my life is only richer for having known them! We miss out on so much when we only value those who look like us and think like us. We miss out on so much when we make sweeping generalizations and lump a whole people group into one category, such as lumping Muslims and terrorists all together or crazy drivers and New Yorkers all together! Why do we do it? Perhaps it's easier to do this than to ask God for His eyes to see the value in others. After all, seeing the value in others requires taking the time to get to know them, and caring enough to point them to Christ.

    I've struggled all week long to wrap my mind around this way of thinking. I see this man's points. I have also heard similar ideas from non Christians. The questions keep coming to me: Does God value the Muslim immigrants?  If we serve a radical God, radical enough to send His son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, then why should we be concerned or afraid of radical Muslims?  Can't our God save them too? Is He not loving enough, powerful enough...to change their hearts? Are they not human beings created in God's image just like we are? If so, then why not invite them in and choose to be an instrument God can use in the American church to lead them to Jesus Christ, the radical Savior? Then they truly will be radicalized!

     As I've thought about these two very different set of circumstances this week, I've come to realize that we devalue what we don't understand. We do it out of fear and sometimes out of laziness. It's easier to dismiss those who are different from us than to get to know them, pray for them, love them, help them, and value them. It's easier to dismiss Muslim immigrants than it is for the body of Christ in America as a whole, to get it's act together, get it's spiritual armor on, and invest in the lives of Muslim immigrants with the end goal of leading them to Christ who already loves them, values them, and wants them for His own.  We are too quick to forget that Christ valued us. He valued us...sinful us...so much that He went to the cross. If we could just remember what He has saved us from, how completely He's loved us since, then we could more easily view others who are different from us through His eyes. When that happens we will come to see as valuable what He sees as valuable, and suddenly everyone we come across is that little boy in the church gym and we can't wait to tell them over and over again that God loves them and has great plans for them...and we'll continue to declare it until it sinks down into the depths of their being and they too can see their value in God's eyes.

   


















Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Tigger...

     The longing in those big blue eyes captured me. I couldn't look away. The owner of those eyes voiced his need for love and affection. I scooped him up. Looks can be deceiving. He looked bright eyed and healthy, but his fluffy fur coat hid the truth. He was skin and bones. "Can we keep him Mom?" I heard my youngest say. The oldest was soon to follow with, "We can take him home with us, he can sit with us in the back seat!" I hesitated for a moment. "No, we can't girls, but we can love him well while we are here."  Two days later we would name him Tigger.

     Tigger is a two month old kitten that someone abandoned at the edge of my Great Aunt Mary's property in Kentucky. My cousin Dude discovered him two days before our visit while she was out feeding the chickens. They don't allow cats on their screened in porch or in their house. This time they made an exception for the sake of my girls. They were loving my girls well while they were there.

     Tigger and the girls spent every moment together. They fed him and he nearly swallowed everything whole! He played with them for hours biting their toes, batting their fingers, and chasing things all over the place. He often wore himself out and fell asleep in their arms. All of this led only to more pleading from the kids, and strong encouragement from my Great Aunt to take him home. I couldn't. I told my girls, "God brought us Tigger for this place in time. With no wifi here and little to do, He brought you a little friend to keep you busy. He also brought you to Tigger because Tigger needed love. Make the most of your time together and stop thinking ahead to when we leave. Make the most of the time you have to love each other now."  Who knew there were life lessons to be gleaned from a kitten?!

     The world is full of "Tiggers". We are surrounded by them wherever we go.  These "Tiggers" may sometimes find themselves in need of physical provision, but they are always in need of love and acceptance. We need to make the most of the moments we have with them. There are no coincidences with God. Each person He brings our way is a divine appointment. He is intentional. The people He brings across our path may be like that kitten...here for a moment and gone tomorrow. That moment matters. That is the only moment we have to quench a love thirsty soul with the love God has poured into us. So often we stop first to analyze the person in front of us, and what helping them or loving them would mean...for us. We worry about whether or not it will turn into a long term situation where they are somehow dependent on us. We can paralyze ourselves with this and fail to act. We can be so busy worrying ahead that we miss the opportunity to do what God has called us to do in the moment...simply love.

     I wonder what would happen if we stopped overthinking things and left them up to God? Maybe the "Tiggers" in our lives would be less like a stray cat looking for a home, because they will have felt at home in the love of God that we did not hesitate to allow to flow through us.

   

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Unspoken...

     This has been a week of a lot of words. I've watched word wars break out on social media. Various churches have posted links to long statements full of words regarding same sex marriage. Christians are exchanging words with non Christians. Worse yet, Christians are exchanging heated words with each other as the non Christians sit back and watch. So many pointless words.

     The wisest words we will ever speak are the ones we say to God in our prayers. This moment in our Nation's history, this Supreme Court ruling...it's not an invitation to rant. It's an invitation to hit our knees. The very same knees that should have blisters on them by now because of how often we've knelt to pray for our fellow man. There is no point in speaking, shouting, posting, or ranting about the truth as it is written in the Bible when we haven't taken the time to truly love the person or people group that we are speaking too. They won't hear it and I can't blame them. When has slamming people with the truth ever brought them to Christ? When has ranting on social media and arguing with other Christians made anyone want to set foot in a church? The world doesn't need to hear our viewpoints it already knows them. In some cases the world knows what the Bible says better than we do!  Some things are best left unspoken.

     What if instead of being so quick to use our words, we let our actions do the talking? What if the Church as a whole sought God earnestly for a plan? What if the Church as a whole, asked God to show it how to love the homosexual community?  The Church in general, is quick to agree with the Bible that homosexuality is a sin, but slow to recognize that all sin is equal in God's eyes. All sin requires a Savior. Heterosexuals sin too and I haven't met one yet who came to know Christ and was delivered from their bondage because someone shouted at them and pointed out how wrong they were on social media. So what's the plan?

     Isn't this the real question? Isn't this the root of all the ranting? Fear. Fear because we have no plan? Fear because we don't know how to deal with this. Fear because we watched the Left Behind Series and we are certain this Supreme Court ruling has ushered in the end times! Fear that this is the beginning of the government telling the Church what to do. Fear that someday, the Church will be persecuted or forced into doing same sex marriages. So what? So what if this is only the beginning of greater challenges to come?! All the more reason to make the most of the time we have. This is all the more reason to seek God earnestly for a way to love the homosexual community so that they too can experience the freedom from the bondage of sin that Christ has to offer. I believe that if we truly seek Him God will gladly reveal His heart to us concerning this. Until He does, let's leave everything but our prayers unspoken. It's better to be silent than to inadvertently become a mouthpiece for the devil.