eyes wide open

the second Jars of Clay inspired blog of the day….

So God bruise the heels we’ve dug in the ground
That we might move closer to love
Pull out the roots we’ve dug in so deep
Finish what You’ve started
Help us to believe

This song can take on multiple meanings I’m sure, but to me it means that we’ve GOT to find a way to get over our old fashioned/self centered/comfortable/blind views on the world.  We’ve got to eradicate comfort zones.  Basically, we’ve got to GET OVER OURSELVES.

The bible says “love your neighbor as yourself” but that doesn’t simply mean the nice person that lives right next to you.  Neighbor means everyone else in the world.  We are not called to stay within our communities and comfort zones.   Some take this to the FULL extent and travel across the world, but today, I want to challenge everyone to allow neighbor to mean the part of town that you often avoid because the people there are different.

“Different” takes on many meanings…

for some it means not going to the poor part of town, with housing projects, because its “not safe”…..

for others it means not going to the town where you’re the only person of your race ….

for some it even means going to the city and you’ve always been in the country….

for some it means something different..

but whatever it means, we have to be willing to step outside of our own little worlds (cue another song) and see the world as God sees it.  To Him, everyone is His child.  All of us.  and all of  “them”.  We are called to love everyone and to get over ourselves and stop separating ourselves.

We are not called to create and further an us-them mentality, yet as the church, we do it SO often.  It used to make my skin crawl with anger, but now it just makes me sad.  What makes me the saddest about it is how far it goes.  Yes adults make mistakes that cause negative circumstances in their lives (and family’s lives) BUT those kids in the situations that we allow ourselves to call “them” did NOTHING wrong.  Children have no play in how much their parents make or where they spend it.  Children have no play in their parents occupations.  Children have no play in their house choice.  Children have no choice in their skin color.  Yet, too often, I hear judgement made about children living in housing projects, children living in the bad parts of town, children whose parents do this or that, and i want to break down and cry.

We are called to love.  We are called to break down the barriers of judgement and hatred, yet we build them.  So I challenge you.  The next time you drive to “that” part of town or see “them,”  think about the children, and think about how your judgement of their family affects them.  Then, STOP, change your thinking, see those people the way God sees them,  see that neighborhood as simply another neighborhood without your opportunities, and do something about it.  We were ALL created equal in God’s eyes, we are all GOD’S children.  So we need to stop building walls and start tearing them down.  We need to get out of our comfort zones.  What does that look like for you today? What does it look like for you to get out of your own little world?

shelter, love others

How do we as Christians miss the simple love of God so often?  Why do we continue to allow ourselves and those around us try to complicate God?

I know those are powerful statements, but they’ve been on my heart lately.

Love God

God loves us.

Love others the way God loves us. Unconditionally

 

I could quote scripture after scripture about loving your neighbor as yourself, loving your enemies, turning your cheek, caring for the poor, widowed, and needy, and go on and on, but we all KNOW those.

So why is it so hard to put those into action on a day to day basis??

I’m not talking about “oh next week i’m going to do _____” or  “last summer i _____”  Faith is not a checkbox. You don’t get to “check off”  a “love others” box.  It doesn’t work that way.  Following Christ is a lifestyle, not a to-do list.   You don’t get to say “I did my Christian duty for day/month/year/lifetime”   It DOES NOT work that way.  Yet we often practice this through our actions, words, and teachings.  We do not focus on putting things into DAILY action, we give tangible once in a while, destination opportunities.   Going and serving on a mission trip or taking monthly trips to serve a specific group or weekly meetings with people who can’t come are GREAT things, but those things should be an overflow of our daily lives and an overflow of our hearts, not something we do to meet a criteria list.

Does anyone else see this happening?

I’m not saying it’s easy to love everyone, forgive others, or any of the other things God has called us to do, BUT we aren’t called to do these things on our own either.  God is with us through his Holy Spirit and we were given that gift to call upon when we are in need.  God wants to be in relationship with us.  He wants us to know Him.  God doesn’t give us anything we cannot handle.  I’ve FIRMLY come to believe that over the past several years through my life experiences and watching those around me.  He will be with us if we simply call on Him.  Even if we don’t, He’s still there, right beside us.

My quote calendar today read as follows: “God walks with us, He scoops us up in His arms or simply sits with us in silent strength until we cannot avoid the awesome recognition that yes, even now, He is there – Gloria Gaither

Now, I don’t know who Gloria is, but she get it.  She’s clearly been there.

God is pretty simple and pretty straight forward…..if we let Him be.  So stop complicating things.  Stop trying to tell people they have to fit in certain boxes to be with God/come to church/be your friend/etc.   We are called to love as God loved, and if that means scooping up, then scoop up, but if that means sitting in silent strength, then sit.

I realize this post is pretty sporadic, but I hope you find something in it that speaks to you.  I really feel that when I’m going through something or wrestling with something, God speaks to me through my fingertips as I type, and I know I’ve heard Him in these moments.

This has been sparked by various life events, but they all (mostly) boil down to the fact that by complicating God, and things related to Him, we are DESTROYING the Church as He meant it to be.  By gossiping, twisting, complicating, and adding things on to God’s word, we are doing an EXTREME disservice to ourselves and those around us.

So just be.

Be who God called you to be.  Be where you are and rest in Him.  That’s all we can do, and if we listen, He will tell us the rest.  Rest in the shelter of those in your community, your faith community.  If you do not have a faith community, let’s chat about it.  I’ve learned lately that faith communities take on MANY more shapes than simply pews and stages.  they may be Google Hangouts, fireplace breakfasts, long walks, text messages, or any number of other places.  God is everywhere, not just the Church, so let’s chat about it.

For now, after your mind has been boggled by that post’s sporadicness, I leave you with a beautiful song by Jars of Clay

Racism is Against Christianity

The title is pretty bold.  But pretty true too.

Racism is an issue that has been on my heart heavily lately. I now work for an organization which has “eliminating racism” as part of it’s mission statement.  I’ve been reading through a book by Francis Chan lately called “Erasing Hell” which is a great read so far!  I debated trying to go into an extensive blog post on MLK day about how racism doesn’t mix with Christianity, but I couldn’t quite find the words and knew that this was an issue that needs the right words for people to continue reading.  In talking with a friend, we’ve both concluded that it can be quite difficult to speak on ‘controversial’ issues without offending people to the point where they quit reading. Well read on or stop, but the text below from “Erasing Hell” might rock your world, in a much needed way.  I’ve found Chan’s words to be some of the most fitting on the topic.  Racism is wrong in all sectors, but especially and ultimately in the community of Christians, so I encourage you to take these words to heart, and please leave your thoughts.  I’d love to start a conversation about this.

Racism. The Christian church in many ages and in many places has stood on the wrong side of this issue, and its damnable-literally.  What’s racism got to do with hell? you may ask.  According to Jesus, it’s got everything to do with it.  In Matthew 8, Jesus smuggles a warning about hell into the context of racism and ethnocentricism (the belief that one ethnicity is superior).  The entire context of Matthew 8-9 depicts Jesus reversing all of the cultural and social assumptions of the Jews f that day.  One assumption is that the Jews as the “people of God” are much more fit for the kingdom than all those other nasty sinners – those Gentiles, those Greeks, those Romans.  But in Matthew 8, Jesus is absolutely floored by the faith of a Roman Gentile military leader.  This leader of high standing had the faith and humility to submit to the authority of Jesus.  And Jesus accepted him as he is, a Gentile.  From this encounter, Jesus spins out a short message about many people of all nations and colors and ethnicities that will flood into the kingdom.  And it is here that Jesus says that the “sons of the Kingdom” who think that God values one ethnicity over another (in this case the Jewish people) are damned to hell: “the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12 NASB).  The teeth that once gnashed at the person of another race or color will gnash in the agony of eternal torment.

Why is it that only 5.5% of the American evangelical churches could be considered multiethnic (where no single ethnicity makes  more than 80% of its congregants)?  Why is that?  5.5%!  And we’re supposed to be living in the melting pot, the place where hundreds of languages and colors often live within a few miles -or feet- of each other.  What’s so sad about this is that many pople outside the church are FAR less racially divided. Consider the military, our places of work, or athletics.  Yet there are three places where racial division still persists: bars, prisons, and the American evangelical church.

We need to see the glaring contradiction in saying we believe in hell making no effort to tear down the walls of racism and ethnic superiority.  If we are going to take Jesus’ words seriously, we have to make more of a concerted effort to forge the avenues of racial reconciliation and unity under the banner of the Gospel of Christ.  

One day, Christ will come back and there will be an amazing worship celebration – with African bongos,  Indian sitars, and an ensemble of Mariachi trumpets – where every tribe, tongue, nation, and color will bow to the knee of the King and celebrate!

If this sounds irritating, go back and read Matthew 8, its written for you.

Stop Stereotyping/Ignoring the Poor

http://rejectapathy.com/poverty/columns/26213-who-are-the-bottom-billion

Who Are “the Bottom Billion”?

By Tony Chen

When we co-founded Movement121, and we first set out to fully flesh out our vision of transforming the lives of 1 billion people trapped in unfathomable poverty to become self-sustaining, we started digging into who these people really are. Who should we work with to start this venture? Whose lives should we begin to knit our lives with?

Both my business partner, Brad, and I had seen unfathomable poverty up close—Brad in Africa, and me in Haiti and rural China. For those who’ve been, you know what I’m talking about. That kind of poverty cannot be captured with a camera or a news segment, or even a documentary. The direness, the endless hopelessness, the putrid stench, the complicated back stories, the deep, systemic brokenness and, personally most haunting for me as a dad, the faces of young children who’ve known no joy. I don’t mean to be overdramatic about it, but basically it is exactly 100 percent unfathomable.

Nonetheless, three things really surprised me about the poorest of the poor: the “bottom billion,” as experts have labeled them (which makes them sound so … sterile)—the 1.3 billion people living (and dying) off of $1.25 per day.

1. ONLY 25 PERCENT OF THE BOTTOM BILLION LIVE IN “POOR” COUNTRIES.

In fact, they live in (often rapidly) developing countries whose GDP per capita has grown tremendously. These countries have begun to arrive on the world’s stage, but the wealth has not distributed evenly. They’re just as poor (if not poorer) then before, but now to make matters worse, they have rich neighbors. They’ve been left behind. They live in countries like India, Pakistan, and others you might not expect. It didn’t used to be this way—back in 1990, 93 percent of the poorest lived in poor countries. This has huge consequences as to how to think about the poor and how to eradicate poverty in our lifetime.

One manifestation of this dynamic we saw on our recent trip to India was watching the poorest of the poor talk on their cell phones. Plans are cheap—free incoming calls and one cent per hour of outgoing calls. So if a dad walks 15 miles to find a job and actually finds one, he can call back home to say he won’t be back for a few days or weeks.

2. RICH PEOPLE AREN’T NECESSARILY ANY HAPPIER THAN POOR PEOPLE.

Yes, more comfortable. Definitely more safe. But not more joyful. Why is that? A weird thing happened to me when I was in Haiti. Despite all the poverty, we met some people who showed me something I hadn’t seen for a long time—authentic joy. They didn’t have nice cars, or barely a working bicycle. They didn’t have nice houses, or barely three mud walls. But they had each other. They were thankful for the days they had together. Here I was in Haiti trying to help them, but in fact, they helped me more. I had no idea how fragile and superficial my definition of happiness was until then.

The same thing happened to me in India. I can’t stop thinking about the time we spent in the slums with the kids. Yes, we feel tremendous compassion for them. It motivates me to no end to work as smart and creative and hard as I can. But oddly, I also felt some envy. These kids—all they know is a life depending on God. Depending on each other. Living in community. It’s simple. It’s actually a life I desperately want for my family and me. Sure, there is brutal violence and all kinds of nastiness that happens there. But it’s clear to me now—we need them just as much as they need us. God created us to need each other.

3. COMPARED TO THE POOR, I’M LAZY, ARROGANT AND HAVE NO CREATIVITY.

So much of my preconceived notions about the poor was that they weren’t smart and didn’t work hard. But when I dug deeper, I saw them as the exact opposite. They have a lot to offer—except they live under a system that systematically, unfairly and brutally keeps them down.

In India, we watched a tailor sew up a school uniform in front of his “hut” with a foot-powered sewing machine. It took him only five minutes to sew the entire uniform perfectly. It was masterful—as if the cloth and his hands were one—and in a snapshot, it portrayed the tens of thousands of hours he’s worked diligently (and even happily) to support his family.

At the end of the day, the surprise we at Movement121 felt has given way to a deeper-rooted desire—a passion to work as hard and creatively and wisely as we possibly can to give fight poverty in a truly sustainable way.

Have you seen the poor face to face? What was your experience like? And more importantly, how did it change your outlook on life and family when you came back?


Tony Chen is Co-Founder/Servant of Movement121, a social innovation company with a vision to transform the lives of 1,000,000 people trapped in unfathomable poverty to become self-sustaining. You can find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.” – Romans 12:9 NLT

This is so simple, yet we as Christians mess up SO bad.  Whether it’s blatantly being completely fake to one another, being honestly mean, or the one we often forget: neglect.  Neglect, in my opinion, is the worst.  Yea you weren’t being mean or unloving to someone, but you noticed that no one was being nice or loving and you chose to be one of those no ones.  You chose to ignore the unloved person, the weird person, the person going through a tough situation that may be ‘awkward’ to deal with.  That’s, in my opinion, just as bad as if you were mean/unloving to them.

God calls us to love: the unlovable, the unloved, the widows, the orphans, the black, the white, the asian, the hispanic, the children, the elders, the parents, and on and on and on…..EVERYONE.

As Christians, sometimes, we have decided it’s okay to put people in boxes and decide which box is “most loveable” or “least loveable” or “someone else can love this box”.  that’s sick. and unacceptable.  oftentimes, things such as this step on toes because we hear the analogy “we’re one big church, we have different parts, some parts are better at some things than others.”  this is true, but when it comes to loving others, we don’t get to sit back and say “well i’m not good at loving ‘that kind’ of person, someone else might be”,  we are called to love EVERYONE.  the same.

30 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ 31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” -Mark 12:30-31

This verse does not mean you can categorize people or justify being unloving to certain kinds of people.  It means love EVERYONE as God loved us, and that’s a lot.  “Neighbor” doesn’t mean the person you feel like loving, it means your fellow humans.  There is no way around it.

I’ve been redundant here, but, lately, i’ve felt so strongly about this.  Loving others is not something we can categorize, change, shirk around, make up excuses for, we are called to LOVE.

We sometimes use little boxes or the “someone else can love that person, but i’ll act (insert unloving behavior) way toward them” to justify the things below, but….

Racism is not love

teasing is not love

judgement is not love

neglect is not love

gossip is not love

physical abuse is not love

smite is not love

but…..

GOD IS LOVE, so what’s it gonna be?

Here’s the rest of the verse from Romans about our call and God’s role

Don’t just pretend that you love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of the good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.11 Never be lazy in your work, but serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12 Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble, and always be prayerful. 13 When God’s children are in need, be the one to help them out. And get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner or, if they need lodging, for the night. 14 If people persecute you because you are a Christian, don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t try to act important, but enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible. 19 Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. For it is written, “I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it,” says the Lord.