Refuse or Refuge

If someone told you at gunpoint to leave your home and never come back, where would you go?  If you were only allowed a couple minutes to take with you only what you could carry, what would you take?  If you had no access to food and your family was starving, what would you do?  It is difficult to believe scenarios like this would happen in our current age, but they are more common now than ever before.  There are more people who have been forced from their home currently than at any other time in history, some 65.6 million people.  Among these are some 22.5 million refugees, half under the age of 18, who have left their home country to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.  Can you imagine the conditions it took for each of these families to flee their homes? 

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them.  The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born.  Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.  I am the Lord your God.  Leviticus 19:33-34

We might hear these numbers or stories about refugees and displaced people in the news and say ‘wow, that’s too bad’ because likely we don’t know anyone in this situation or who has gone through an experience like this.  Most of us are insulated from the realities and the struggle for identity and life many of these people face each day.  Can you imagine walking your family across hundreds of miles of unfamiliar terrain with thin hopes of a better life or ever returning home?  Or being stuck in a refugee camp with thousands of strangers in a similar situation as you for years on end?  In reality, people who flee are not that much different from you and me or others you may know.   Some are good, hard working people, and some are not, just like the mix of folks in your own home town.  We may hear stories of crimes committed by some in these groups and assume they are all the same.  The further we are from their reality, the easier it is to become cold and hardened toward an alien, or refugee, or anyone that is ‘not where they are supposed to be.’  If this is our attitude toward any people group, we need a wake-up call!  How many of us came to know the love of God because we were condemned and chastised? 

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.  Romans 12:16

So, you say, ‘what can I do?’ there are no refugees knocking on my door looking for a place to stay.  Listen to some of the stories of what people have gone through and why they left their homes.  Everyone has a story.  I got to hear and ask questions of a man and his family who are refugees from SE Asia and had recently settled in Iowa for now.  Believe me, you wanted to shake his hand and welcome him, even if he looked nothing like you, after hearing what he went through.  If you have an attitude of hate or indifference in your heart, ask God to give you more compassion.  Even if you can’t give anything directly to these people, there are organizations that are effective in the help they provide with food, shelter, and resettlement.  Pray for these people as a group, but also individually, that they may hear the Gospel message and come to experience His mercy through those that show them kindness and help during a traumatic time in their lives. 

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Matthew 25:34-36

Yours in Christ,
Clark

How to Change the World… Part 1

A man born a slave has no idea, he has a destiny of leading a nation into become a world super power. For hundreds of years, a nation hoped for the promise of God to come.  That promise was called “the promise land.”  A young man named Joshua has become the assistant to the legend in Moses.  Joshua has been a slave his whole life, until one year when a man named Moses led him and his whole nation to freedom.  Joshua saw God send plagues to bring the greatest nation to its knees.  He saw the Red Sea part and then crash on the greatest army.  He saw food appear out of nowhere every day.  

Joshua later leads Israel into the promise land and conquers the people living in the land decisively. He actually conquers 31 kings in 31 days.  Amazing.  I think all of us would love even a taste of that kind of success and leadership.

So I want to spend the next couple weeks talking with you about what Joshua did that set him up to make such a huge difference.

Exodus 33:It was Moses’ practice to take the Tent of Meeting and set it up some distance from the camp. Everyone who wanted to make a request of the Lord would go to the Tent of Meeting outside the camp.

Whenever Moses went out to the Tent of Meeting, all the people would get up and stand in the entrances of their own tents. They would all watch Moses until he disappeared inside.

11 Inside the Tent of Meeting, the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Afterward Moses would return to the camp, but the young man who assisted him, Joshua son of Nun, would remain behind in the Tent of Meeting.

The first thing I take away from Joshua is…

Joshua separated from the crowd.

Joshua knew God’s power and knew Moses knew God differently from the rest of Israel.  Joshua wanted something different and knew he had to live different.  His lifestyle was different.  We all know going with the crowd is easy, especially when it comes to God.  When you live different, you stand out and people notice.  This different make them naturally uncomfortable, which is why most people just go with the crowd. They are afraid of being different.  Joshua wanted to know the God who purchased his freedom and would live a lifestyle that invited God into who he became.

Joshua had different relationships.  Joshua spent his time with Moses, Caleb, and Aaron.   He did not spend his time with the complainers called Israel.  It is amazing how quickly being around a complainer that their negativity rubs off. Studies show we are the average of our 5 closest relationships.  So all of us should choose wisely. 

Lastly, Joshua separated from the crowd by living by different standards.  I will talk about this more in weeks to come, but the standards how what he ate, drank, talked about, spent time doing, were not normal.  

To change the world that we live in we have to first separate from the crowd.  Side note… if you have to remind someone you are separated from the crowd, you are not separate from the crowd.  

So what do you need to do this week to separate from the crowd?

Recklessly, obsessively following Jesus

Brandon Sereg

Real Humility

If I’ve seen one sports post-game interview I’ve seen them all. It seems as if every victorious athlete gives the same response to the sideline reporter: the other team played great, I could not have done it without my teammates, a huge thanks to my coach, and all the credit to God. All really great responses. But, is that really how the athlete feels? So many times I hear an athlete give those responses, only to read later in the week that they are ridiculing the other team, bashing their teammates, begging management to fire their coach, and taking all the glory for their accomplishments. It seems that most athletes know they are supposed to act humbly in the post-game interview, yet forget to live a life of humility the rest of the week.

My point here is not to pick on athletes because, quite honestly, most of us are no better {and, to be clear, there are some truly humble athletes who make exceptional role models}. We know we are supposed to act humbly, so we try hard to give humble answers and to appear humble in public. But, in our hearts and minds, we often are far from humble. We are prideful, self-focused, view ourselves above others, and have a very me-first attitude. We seem to excel at acting humble, but struggle at actually being humble.

What does it actually mean to be humble? The word humble comes form the Latin word for dirt. Its origin is in Genesis, where God creates humanity from the dirt. To be humble is to acknowledge that we are all dirt. We are all creatures that have been created by God and have fallen into sin. In fact, the giftedness and goodness that we do have is not of our doing, but the Spirit working in and through us. Therefore, we really have no reason to see ourselves any better then anyone else. The best example we have of humility is the life of Christ, as Paul points out in Philippians 2:8: And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Jesus, God in the flesh, was the only one to ever walk this earth that was not dirt. He was not created from the dirt, and was not sinful, but instead was fully God. Yet, despite his divinity, he chose to lower himself for us. He chose to value you and I above himself by suffering and dying on the cross to pay our debts. That is the ultimate example of humility.

I want us to all ask ourselves this question: am I living humbly, or am I simply acting humbly? Am I putting the needs of others equal to/above my own, as Christ did, or am I living for myself? This week lets follow Christ’s lead and truly live a humble life.

 

What Kind of King Did You Expect

Mark 11:1 New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King

11 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples,

If Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem was triumphant on Palm Sunday, what went wrong less than a week later? Why did the crowds who adored Jesus on Sunday, turn on him by Friday of that week? And what choice does Palm Sunday present to us today?

We all go into Palm Sunday in our churches looking at the celebration of that day. Palms are waving and people are throwing down their coats to the ground hailing King Jesus. The man who was going to rid Roman Rule and excessive taxation with unjust ruling was Jesus.

The only problem with this view is Jesus came riding on a donkey, which was a young colt. There were two entries on Jerusalem that day. Jesus on a colt on Palm Sunday, and Pontious Pilate came in on a steed with an army following him.

Pilate was showing his military might and strength. Jesus was showing the opposite. Jesus was humble. He embodied peace and tranquility of Shalom which is what God brings to his people.

The people saw Jesus’ leadership in his final week to be disappointing. He was not the King David they expected. They were seeking this powerful king. That is why they were chanting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David.’ That was the King they expected.

To a point I thing we are still looking for that King who will rid the world of starvation, cancer, death, and pain.

Here is the bottom line for us today. We will make a choice each day to choose power and might, or we will choose love. We will make a choice to choose the way thing are done over the way God intends them to be. Which will you choose? What kind of King do you expect?

Strength and Courage

Michael

 

Vital Ministries News

It is a good month to read about the Passion of the Christ. Let’s remember together what Jesus did in taking on our sins so that we might be in right relationship with the Father.

Strength and Courage

Michael

 

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