More Thoughts on Refugees

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote some initial thoughts on the refugee crisis.  I mentioned that there is so much we cannot know in order to determine whether or not we should support taking in refugees.  After listening to endless officials and pundits over the last several weeks analyze and argue their views, I still don’t know if letting refugees in is safe or not.

What I do know is that the idea of absolute physical safety is an illusion.  I’m sitting in front of the TV now watching reports of a mass shooting in San Bernadino, California that is unfolding live before my eyes.  There are no details yet on who did it or why, but if follows closely on the heals of another shooting that took place in Colorado less than a week ago.

My point is simply that whether or not there are refugees, there will be danger.  Always.  Danger is already here.  The potential for and reality of mass killing is a domestic problem as much as a foreign one.  Terrorists can already get into our country and reports are they’re already here.  All of this is outside of my control.  What is not outside of my control is how I think about and what I do for people in need.  I can allow myself to become fearful, paranoid and cynical, or I can choose to live a life of fearless compassion in a dangerous world.

I have no control over who does or does not come into the Unites States.  So, with so many unknown variables, I fall back on who I am, who I’m called to be and what I believe about God and about people.  I am called to love and care for those God brings to me to love and care for.

Because of what I don’t know, I neither argue for nor against the acceptance of refugees.  As I stated in my last post, there are really good arguments on both sides.  Frankly, I don’t see a reason to pick a side.  I can look at it philosophically, theologically and ethically and argue a position, but last I checked, those who make the decision don’t ask what my views are.  That’s not to say that speaking up isn’t important, but on this issue, I can’t know what I don’t know; I can’t make a fully informed opinion (and there are enough uniformed opinions already out there).

What I CAN do is respond to what actually happens.  I can work towards helping those families who might enter the Country and do what I can to show them the love of Christ, if it is determined that they will be allowed to do so.  That’s what I’m called to already, even though I so often do an inadequate job as it is…but I can work on improving.  I can refuse to operate out of fear. I can trust in a sovereign God who will ultimately determine whether or not refugees from Syria or any other nation enter our borders.  Many times, God calls us out to the Nations…sometimes, God calls the Nations to us.

I can’t decide what will happen.  I can decide how I will respond.

A Forgotten People?

You know what frustrates me probably more than just about anything about myself (and others)?  Forgetfulness.  That tendency to be totally moved and overcome by emotion at the distress caused by natural disaster or otherwise and then as time moves on, so do we.  Front page news begins to move it’s way through the pages until it becomes a footnote at the back of the newspaper of my mind.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti.  Remember that?  Doesn’t seem that long ago, but maybe that’s because I’ve not been living in the hellish conditions that so many people have grown hopelessly accustomed to.  I read this today in the Wall Street Journal:

On the anniversary of the devastating quake that killed an estimated 300,000 people and left millions homeless, many Haitians are losing hope. Buildings remain destroyed, tent cities are becoming more permanent and their country has been it by disease, hurricanes and political turmoil.

Am I moved again today?  If so, for how long and what difference will it make?   So, what do we do about this tendency to drift away; to become apathetic to those things that were, at some point, so emotionally charged and painful to think about?  Is there no way to overcome this progressive apathy that tends to overtake us and be moved to action until the trouble is resolved?  It’s very troubling to me, but am I just to eventually become apathetic and forgetful towards even that?

So, what is the remedy for such epidemics as forgetfulness and apathy?  Or are we, too, without hope? Are we serious enough that we would ask the Lord to break our hearts every day until the hurt in others is healed?  Do we care (or even want to care) that much?

Christmas, Gathering Style

I am so excited about what is happening at The Gathering. You are stepping up to the challenge this year by reaching beyond yourself to be a blessing to people you will never know. Rather than allow God’s blessings to terminate on yourself, you are determining to be a channel of blessing to the world.

This year, we’re cutting our Christmas budgets in order to provide safety and nutrition to many people who, without these “sacrifices” might not survive to see another Christmas. By providing goats for milk and nets to protect against exposure to Malaria, money that would have been spent on a gift with limited satisfaction value and forgotten in a year, will now be spent on gifts that will give more than satisfaction…they will give life!

When we engage in this kind of giving, we experience what Scripture says about it being more blessed to give than to receive. If you have not yet determined what you’re going to give this year, do it now. We don’t want to pressure anyone into taking part, but believe that if you determine to use your resources for the glory of God this year by meeting needs in the name of Christ, you will experience the joy in giving that God designed all along.

$70 provides a goat for a family along with all the training needed to care for the goat. With the birth of additional goats, one female is given back to Samaritan’s Purse in order to provide for another family, making it possible for your one gift of $70 to be multiplied indefinitely to meet the needs of countless families! Also, for $10, you can provide a treated net that will protect a family from deadly mosquito bites while they sleep. It costs so little but provides so much. Make sure you take part this year.

If you are a part of The Gathering family, please contribute in addition to your regular tithe, designated “goats” or “nets” (or both!). If you are not a part of The Gathering but would like to take part through our ministry, please send a check to our office address with your check designated “goats” or “nets”, as well.

Thank you so much for helping us transform Christmas from a season of consumerism to one of compassion in the name of Jesus.

The God of Manasseh

To read the account of King Manasseh of Judah is absolutely amazing in regards to the mercy of God. Manasseh literally did everything he could to provoke God to fury. Reading about his faithlessness and sin toward God is like watching a fatal train crash in slow motion. I found myself actually getting angry at him myself as it was told of him going so far as burning his own sons as sacrifices to idols. How could God ever forgive someone for something so vile?! Besides that, he “led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel.”  Seriously??  God spoke to them and they refused to listen and “he did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger.”

MercyAnd yet…

There’s that phrase…and yet. It often follows when talking about God. I can read about the horrible way God’s people act and of how faithless we can be, then follows, and yet.

Manasseh was entirely faithless…completely faithless, AND YET God was faithful. The following is a remarkable passage in light of Manasseh’s depth of depravity:

12 And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers.13 He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God. (emphasis mine)

Look at that! God was moved by his entreaty and forgave him. Is there really no depths from which God cannot restore? Is there really no one too far gone that God cannot bring back. If God can bring Manasseh to restoration after such amazingly depraved actions, surely there is hope for anyone.  There is hope for us.

The Lord, my God, is an alarmingly merciful God. Yes, a God of justice and judgment, but of mercy and grace. Thank you, Father, for your abundant and sufficient loving-kindness. Your mercy endures forever!

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