Disciples of the Kingdom and Refugees

I’ve waited to openly discuss this until some of the initial reactions have died down, but these are some running thoughts and similar to ones I had a couple years ago when stuff blew up on social media about the issue of refugees and the US. I know that the “fight” isn’t over for many, at least on the political side.

It may disappoint you that I’m not going to take a position here on the travel ban or the executive order on refugees or the Trump administration. I’ve made it clear I didn’t vote for Trump, but the reality is this: Trump is rolling back to the same number of refugees that Obama allowed for the first six years of his administration, and the travel bans are not new for Democrats or Republicans to do from time to time. It is legal, however right or wrong it may be.

The question I will be answering today is this: if I feel a deep conviction and passion from God about the morality of helping refugees, what should I do? Or what should we do? I’m going to give one option that hasn’t been discussed very often but is more biblical and Christ-like than much of the current conversation.

A couple thoughts before I give my suggestion.

It is interesting how many liberal/progressives become interested in doing what the Bible says when they can use it to beat conservatives over the head with it. So much of it is out of context and hyper selective, that it is almost impossible to take seriously. For example, I saw a post from someone on the liberal side where they quoted from Leviticus about taking care of the foreigner, etc. Setting aside the contextual problems, should we do all that Leviticus now says about how we treat people? I would suspect that person would not support such a broad stroke when it comes to other laws and rules in Leviticus.

Perhaps some people respond well to being called names, lectured and beat about the head with the Bible, marginalized and demonized for genuinely held beliefs, but it doesn’t seem to be working from my perspective. Since I’ve heard how many people dislike the “judgment” and “Bible-thumping” that they claim comes from one side, I find it fascinating how quickly it is resorted to in arguments from the same people. One should not be surprised when that approach doesn’t work.

It is possible I’m giving some liberal/progressives more credit than they deserve. It may not be designed to work, to bring people to spiritual truth, to unify under principles of the Kingdom of God, to follow the truths of the Bible. For some it may simply be another weapon to attack a human enemy with and further divide, a way to express anger and vitriol, which is not the purpose of the Bible, in any debate.

For many, I know they genuinely believe in the Kingdom. They believe in following the principles of the Bible. They believe that Jesus is Lord and desire to follow him with all of their heart. And from that place, their hearts of compassion cry out to help the least of these, those who are hurting and alone, and they apply that heart to refugees. I know they exist. Many of them.

If you are one of those I just described, the following suggestion is for you. It is radical and will only make sense to those of that ilk. The rest can stop reading and dismiss.

What if we really were like Christ? What if we truly took the ideas of the Good Samaritan, and the Gospel of the Kingdom, and we applied them to this situation?

In our cultural and political context, what could we do that would unify and be an amazing testimony to others in our country, and even the world, about the power of the Spirit of God and the Church? What if we were to “be like Jesus”?

America is still taking in 50,000 refugees. We are talking about another 20,000, although this solution could even accept more than that.

Address this letter to President Trump, at the White House. Here is the address: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500.

You would copy, paste, and fill in the blanks with your own information.

President Trump,

My name is _____________. I am writing to you because I am very passionate about the Christian obligation to help those in need, those that desperately need our help. I appreciate that our country is still helping 50,000 refugees, but I feel that we could do more. So much more. I believe we can give hope and redemption to many if we would simply reach out. 

I disagree with your recent actions on this issue and your reasons for it, and I pray that you will find wisdom and a change of heart. 

Because of my convictions that this is a dire need and an international crisis, I ask that you allow those of us who are willing to take personal responsibility for refugees to come into our country. I ask that you allow each as individuals the freedom to be compassionate with our personal lives and finances to help those in such desperate circumstances. I am willing to make the personal sacrifices to fulfill my own convictions.

I will agree to be legally and financially responsible for the following:

  1. Food, clothing, and shelter for up to ________ refugees.
  2. Education, health care, and job training where applicable.
  3. If the refugees under my care commit any crimes, I will pay their fines or serve their punishment.

I am willing to sign legal papers documenting these commitments. 

Mr. President, I believe you – and the world – will see the power of compassion and the heart of God as these families find hope and transformation.

My contact information (phone, email, and address): ____________________.

Thank you and God bless you,

_____________________________

Now, some of you just said “that’s ridiculous” or “that’s impossible.”

“With man this is impossible; with God, all things are possible.” – Jesus.

As a conservative estimate, there are 300,000 churches in America. 300,000. We would only need 20,000 churches to take legal and financial responsibility for one refugee to get back to Obama’s numbers including the Syrian people, less if a church takes a family. That’s, at most, 7% of the churches in America taking responsibility as an organization or supporting an individual or family in their congregation with this conviction.

Some more numbers – at least 1,200 churches in America are “megachurches” with more than 2,000 people attending every week. They could each take a family of four and cover more than a fourth of the number of refugees needed.

Of course, I’m being stingy with some numbers. Why would only 7% of the churches in America take on the responsibility of a refugee? Surely more than half support more care to the foreigner and the refugee. That’s 150k churches.

Can you imagine the story if the White House got 20k letters from people willing to do this radical thing? How about 50k? How about 150K? Could we really take care of 150k more refugees in America?

If the Church would decide to be the Church, then yes, we could. We would be Jesus’ hands and feet in a more real and relational way that would truly transform people.

Even if Trump did nothing, what a story and testimony it would make. I can only imagine how heaven would sing.

Or we could continue to sue one another and beat each other over the head with the Bible. Maybe that will work one day.

Peace.

Daniel, Babylon, and the Kingdom of God Part 5 – Nebuchadnezzar’s 2nd Dream

Poor Nebuchadnezzar. He really had a hard time learning that he wasn’t the one in control.

Now, we shouldn’t give him too hard a time. Everything in his life told him he was awesome. He conquered the civilized world in his day, the world he knew, including the very stubborn Jewish holdouts. He was incredibly wealthy and powerful. No one had existed like this king in history.

Of course, he could not exist without the failing of Israel and the work of God. God used Nebuchadnezzar to prove a point, and God had no problem reminding the Babylonian king of this fact.

Nebuchadnezzar had another dream. In this dream, there was an enormous tree that fed all the beasts of the field. An angel comes down and cuts down the tree but is told (by God) to leave the stump. The King is troubled by this dream, and he turns to Daniel again to get the interpretation.

Daniel tells him, “The tree is you, O King, and you rule to the end of the earth. But you will be sent out to live like a beast with the other beasts, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.”

And then Daniel does a curious thing. In a warning, he says, “Break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

In other words, you can avoid this by being humble and righteous and helping others. Sound advice for us all.

It takes a whole year before Nebuchadnezzar slips up. He looks around his Empire and his royal palace and says, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?”

Immediately, Heaven judges the King and he becomes like an animal. After a few days of this, God restored the man’s reason, and his response was to worship God and declare that it is God that is in control. His words express the supremacy of God’s Kingdom.

“For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom is from generation to generation.
All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing;
He does according to His will in the army of heaven
And among the inhabitants of the earth.
No one can restrain His hand
Or say to Him, ‘What have you done?'”

Once again, the mighty Empire of Babylon and its king is forcefully reminded that there is a greater, better, more dominant King and Kingdom than any on earth. There is no comparison. That Kingdom controls all others.

I believe we are beginning to see a pattern in Daniel, aren’t we?

During this Christmas season, I’m reminded of the great carol Joy to the World which makes the following statement: He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness and wonders of his love.

The prideful will be resisted and brought low. The humble recognize the greater Kingdom and power above all things, all other nations, all other powers. The humble will enter that Kingdom and be exalted. That is the Gospel, and that is the message of Daniel.

Even when they throw us to the lions.

Peace.

Patrick and the Kingdom of God

StPatrick1As usual, we have another “Christian” holiday that is more about cartoon characters and what we can get rather than celebrating, you know, the actual person and what they stood for and believed. That would be too “religious” I guess, so we should just drink a lot of green beer, pinch each other for not wearing green, and butcher Irish accents. Because that’s what St. Patrick was about.

If you haven’t heard the story about St. Patrick, it is an epic one. I would love to see a quality film made based on his life, but that’s probably not going to happen for a while, if ever. The powers of Hollywood are busy with their own agenda; real history and great story are sacrificed for that.

Patrick was a Briton under Rome and somewhat educated in the Christian religion. As a young man, he was abducted by Irish pagan raiders and brought back to Ireland as a slave. While a slave, he learned Irish language and culture from his captors/masters and began to seriously pray to God. God spoke to him and told him to start walking and leave his life of slavery. Through a series of amazing events, he returned to his family and began to pursue a life as a Catholic priest.

While studying and moving forward with his religious career, Patrick had a dream where an Irishman begged him to come and preach the Gospel to them. He struggled with that, as anyone would, but ultimately got the sanction from the powers that be to go be a missionary to Ireland.

This was more difficult than you might imagine. The Catholic church at that time saw “barbarians” like the Irish as practically unreachable. There was no effort to do so. Patrick’s request was unique and met with resistance and skepticism. But Patrick pushed forward. That’s what happens when you get a word from God.

Patrick was criticised and even sanctioned, to a degree, for how different he was with the Irish. He spoke to them in their own language, used their own culture to express the absolute truth of the Gospel in a new way, in contrast to the Roman way of making a people learn Latin and Roman culture and “civilization” before ever thinking a people could hear the Gospel. Patrick took ideas from Paul and the New Testament and miraculously changed an entire nation with the Gospel. He loved those that hated him and transformation happened.

A brutal and violent people were changed. Patrick used their love of poetry and song and education to teach them about the love and truth of Christ. And within a couple generations, Irish missionaries went out into Europe as the Roman Empire fell away and their government/religion along with it, and those Irish missionaries did what Patrick taught them to do – they preached the Gospel out of relationship and love and re-evangelized most of Europe.

As Seamus McManus said in his amazing book, The Story of the Irish Race, “The coming of Patrick to Ireland marks the greatest of Irish epochs. Of all most momentous happenings in Irish history, this seemingly simple one had the most extraordinary, most far-reaching effect. It changed the face of the nation, and utterly changed the nation’s destiny. The coming of Patrick may be said to have had a sublime effect not on Ireland alone, but upon the world. It was a world event.”

Patrick changed a nation, and history itself, with the love of the Gospel.

So of course, we should drink lots of green beer and put leprechauns on our FB pages. Makes sense.

To be fair, I will be drinking some beer today, hopefully a Guinness, because I am of Irish descent and that’s how we roll.

But more importantly, I will be reminded of the world-changing power of the Gospel as we celebrate St. Patrick, because I am a child of God. And that’s how we roll.

Peace.

Wheat and Tares

wheatAfter the parable of the different soils, Jesus continues taking the ideas of the Kingdom of God and comparing it to something organic.

In this story, a man sowed seed in his field, and during the night, an “enemy” sowed tares among the wheat. Both grow up together, and when a servant asked what to do, the sower said that they should let the wheat and the tares grow up together, since pulling up the tares would damage the wheat, as well. At the harvest, they will separate the wheat and the tares, gathering both and burning the tares.

A few verses later, the disciples ask what this parable means. They were particularly confused by this one. So Jesus explains in Matt 13, 36-43. The sower, again, is Jesus, and the good seed are sons of the Kingdom of God (disciples). The field is the world. The tares are sons of the “wicked one,” and the devil sowed them in the world. Both are gathered and judged at the end of the age, where the righteous will shine forth and the wicked will burn in punishment.

Simple, right? A couple thoughts:

First, here the seeds are people, not the message. The man who owns the field, Jesus, sows people of the Kingdom and those people are righteous, and the implication is that they act righteously. The devil sows his own seed – people who act wickedly and are destined for destruction.

Here we see a Kingdom principle of source and destination. The end is seen in the source. If a person’s source is in the Kingdom, then the organic, natural result is shining forth in the Father’s Kingdom. If a person’s source is in the devil, then they will do works of the devil. As Jesus says elsewhere, “You are of your father the devil, because you do what he does.” This is why we must be “born again” so we can see and enter the Kingdom and come from a different source.

Second, devil works at night, under cover of darkness. We may not see him working, but we can notice his handiwork after the fact. This is important. It will look different from the righteousness of the Kingdom, even though it may be within the same “field,” the world.

And it surprises us. How did this happen? It takes supernatural revelation from the Master to tell us the enemy is at work. The devil does not want to be seen. As Kaiser Soze says, “The greatest lie the devil ever told was that he doesn’t exist.”

Third, the Lord will sift it. He may give us revelation about who is a wheat and tare (and this is for evangelical purposes, to love and not to condemn), but our comfort and peace should be that the King of all will separate and reward or condemn accordingly. That is not our job. We love and encourage and spread life and let God do the job of condemnation.

As an aside, that does not mean that we do not “judge” according to fruit and the Spirit, as to who is following Christ or not. The Bible is clear about this. But we cannot condemn before the time. The story is not over. He is Lord of the harvest.

Peace.