Friday, April 21, 2006

How has it come to this?

A few years ago I attended a conference on USA/Canada Missions in Nashville, TN. The conference, sponsored by the Church of the Nazarene, had nearly 5000 participants focused on how to evangelize the United States and Canada. The M3 refers to the 3rd Millennium of Christianity, which we are now in.

Am I the only one to cringe at the concept of having to have a conference on how to evangelize our “Christian” nation? I used to make fun of the Jews because they “just didn’t get it” when they had the Messiah in their midst. In Acts 1:4,8 Jesus tells his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they have received the Holy Spirit and that “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth.” People, our Jerusalem is all around us.

Look at your community with God’s eyes. Who is hurting? Who needs a friend? Who needs food? Shelter. A lift out of addiction? Freedom from fear from an abusive spouse? Who are the widows, orphans and poor that God cares so deeply about? And how can we help them?

I am reminded of King Theoden, sovereign of Rohan in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, whom, when surveying the evil that surrounds his nation, asks, “How has it come to this?” (In case you didn’t know, I am a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the Hobbit) How has it come to the Church of Jesus Christ having to make a concerted effort to see the needs of the hurting? When did our eyes stop seeing the hurt, the loneliness, and the needs in people? When did a church so rooted in serving the poor, turn its heart away from those that need Jesus? I can’t answer that, but it has been that way for a while.

I have good news. The Church of the Nazarene has reaffirmed its commitment to serving the needs of all God’s children, not just those who look like us. Speaker after speaker talked about how we need to reach out, and how we can reach out to the lost in our communities. Since 1998, more than 500 new churches have been started in the United States and Canada, and 1,000 more will be started by 2008. More than 300 of those new churches will be primarily Hispanic congregations. The church has identified leaders to reach nearly every ethnic group imaginable with these church plants. The commitment to those who are not “pale-skinned” resonated throughout all the speakers, culminating in the address of General Superintendent Dr. Middendorf, who told us this is our time, God has been ready, and now we are ready to go where he wants us to go.

Pray that we will be obedient to God’s leading in these issues. We need to be prepared to reach people who do not look like us, act like us, or are even the kinds of people we like to be around. We are all sinners, some of us are saved by Grace, and others are waiting for that opportunity. God loves these people, and we need to be obedient to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them. That may mean a church plant, opening a Compassionate Ministry Center, or implementing outreach efforts to show Christ’s love to them. Or something that we haven’t even imagined. Mercifully, God is not limited by our imaginations.

Pray with me that God will lead us to follow His direction. We can’t be passive, but we need to be obedient. Pray with us, come with us, and work with us to reach the lost for Jesus.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Wow! What a weekend that was. It started out with a moving Stations of the Cross service on Good Friday followed by the Eucharist. Since we meet in a school, it was kind of a linear mode, but it was very well done and it spoke to many hearts.

Sunday was a great day as well. We had an all-church breakfast at 10, service at 11 and an egg hunt at 12:30. We had more than 100 people for the first time on Sunday and 45 children for the egg hunt.

Our message was about Thomas, and how he is stereotypically known as "Doubting Thomas." There is more to the man as Pastor Sam pointed out, but he also encouraged us to lay down our doubts. I know I have my share.

I doubt whether God still intervenes in the daily lives of people. Then I remember a kindly gentleman, and I use that term in its most positive manner, named Howard Carroll who was told to go home and prepare to die because his cancer was untreatable. More than 10 years later, he had become a hospital chaplain and he was there to explain to my 9 year old daughter how God does heal people. Her grandfather had recently had what we thought were strokes, and she was having a hard time praying with any belief. I told her about Howard and she started firing questions at him (if you know her you can imagine the scene) about his story. Afterward she was comforted and more confident in her God, because she heard first-hand how he intervenes in people's lives.

I repeat that story for myself for those times when my business is down, I am discouraged, or feel like roadkill. God still intervenes in our lives, and He cares about us. That is the message of Easter. God cared enough to rescue us from the pit of despair. And he still does that today. Celebrate it with me.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


More on the immigration debate.

Remember Elian Gonzalez? The little Cuban boy forcibly removed by federal agents and sent back to communist Cuba? If he had been Mexican, none of that would have happened. I'm not trying to stir hatred toward anyone (except maybe the potatoheads in DC) but there is an obvious double standard. Our Immigration service practices catch and release for illegals flooding the Southern Border. They don't automatically send them back.

But any Cuban who doesn't reach U.S. soil is summarily sent back to Cuba, without even a hearing. There is something inherently wrong here.

Monday, April 10, 2006


I really don't know what to make of the recent wave of protests about illegal immigration. As someone born and raised in this country, I have a hard time understanding what the illegal immigrants must go through. They live in fear of deportation, and are reluctant to turn to the authorities when they are mistreated for fear of being deported if their status is discovered. The Bible clearly calls on believers to take care of the less fortunate and defenseless in our land. And they qualify as defenseless in many ways.

The prophet Jeremiah summed it up pretty well how important the defenseless are to God in chapter 7 of his book:
' 5 "For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, 6 {if} you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin, 7 then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.

All of the groups highlighted in v6 were defenseless in that era. There were not many methods of recourse for them if they were mistreated, and so God made a spe
cial point of instructing Israel to take care of them.

But what do we do with people who broke the law to get here? There are 12 million or so of them in this country right now, and our border is so porous that one could smuggle just about anything over it. Social services in border states are overwhelmed with the workload, and many Mexican women are coming to the U.S. to give birth so that their child will be a U.S. citizen. Hospitals in Arizona, New Mexico, California and Texas are closing because they are not reimbursed for the care given to illegals.

I see church leaders leading the protests, and I sympathize with them. I see the leaders of the House of Representatives taking an enforcement tack, and I empathize with them. I hear the calls for amnesty, and I fear that will just open the floodgates unless the border is secured. And who knows what Al Qaeda will bring across the border.

This is a vexing problem that defies easy answers. This may be one of the cases where the church and the government's interests diverge. God help us to make the right decision. Lives do depend on it.