Today, March 17, most of us (if we remember) will break out some green apparel while kids everywhere will try to pinch you if you do not wear green! Towns will color their foundations green and many will tell about that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But do you know who Saint Patrick really was and what he did? Russ Moore says that to our shame, most evangelical Protestants tend to think of Saint Patrick as a leprechaun. Let that not be the case and take a few minutes to read about St. Patrick today and even tell others who he really was and what he did. Here are some helps:

If you have never read it you need to give The Confessions of St. Patrick a quick read that will tell about his fascinating life and ministry.

Russ Moore is helpful with this quick and insightful read : An Evangelical Looks at Saint Patrick.

Jim Elliff’s ministry once again has helped us with one page reads (designed for bulletin inserts) that cover a brief biography of  St. Patrick, a children’s insert, and one to help us understand luck.

J.D. Payne encourages us to think about this holiday from a different perspective.

Also, you may want to check out this funny short animated bit from Lutheran Satire on the doctrine of the Trinty and St. Patrick.

originally published March 17, 2012

43 Years: A Tragic Anniversary*

Posted: January 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

January 22 marks the 43nd anniversary of the tragic Supreme Court ruling, Roe v Wade. This decision gave American women the constitutional right to have the unborn baby in her womb murdered by the act of abortion. Since that ruling in 1973 it is estimated that upwards of 58.6 million babies have been aborted in the US (over 3,000 a day)! We have grown numb to those numbers. But they should stagger us. 57.5 million is much more than whole countries like our neighbor to the north Canada (34 million); actually a county like  South Korea (50 million) or South Africa (51 million) would be closer but still smaller. Whole countries gone! This would be a major holocaust. Let’s say maybe you are not into countries outside of the US, let’s look at cities. If you took 35 of the largest cities in the US it equals 42 million people (equal to the number of worldwide abortions annually). Just imagine: New York, Los Angelos, Chicago; and 32 other cities in the US are gone!  So let those numbers sink in. January 22 marks 40 years of a tragic anniversary.

Let me say that all who are reading this probably find abortion as tragic and as horrible injustice as I do. You may not have time to read this so feel free to skim down to the end of the article and be directed to some helpful resources to help us blow the trumpet for the unborn. For others, I hope you will take the time to read this brief article, pray and act.

We may be quick to lament to ask “how did this happen in the land of the free?” A number of answers could be given. Historically, the few days and weeks that surrounded 1/22/73 were loaded with cultural and historical events.  Abort73 puts the decision in a timeline of events in a great video that shows and tells what happened:

“On January 30, 1973, former presidential aides James McCord and G. Gordon Liddy were convicted of conspiracy, burglary, and wiretapping for their roles in the Watergate Break-in

  • which came just 3 days after the Paris Peace Accord was signed to end the war in Vietnam
  • which came 5 days after former president Lyndon Johnson died at his Texas ranch
  • on the same day that George Foreman defeated Joe Frazier to become the heavyweight champion of the world
  • which was 2 days after President Nixon was inaugurated for his second term in office
  • which came 5 days after offensive action was suspended in Vietnam
  • which was the day after the Miami Dolphins completed the only perfect season in NFL history
  • on the same day that Elvis Presley’s televised concert from Hawaii was watched by 1.5 billion people worldwide.

It was a busy two weeks, and while an entire nation had its eyes on “bigger” things, seven men, non-elected, and appointed for life, changed the course of history for the worse.

On January 22, 1973, the U. S. Supreme Court wiped away every state law that had previously protected human beings in the womb. Without a vote, without due legislation, abortion was made legal in all 50 states. Through all nine months of pregnancy, for virtually any reason at all, more than 50 million human beings (in the US) have lost their lives as a direct result of this one decision.”

Through the providence of God it was an action packed couple of weeks that the Roe V Wade decision happened in, but as Newsweek then stated:

“The end of a war & the death of a president got bigger headlines, But in a quiet way a 3rd event last week may have as lasting an influence on American life. In one of the boldest and most sweeping decisions of the Nixon years, the court ruled 7-2 that criminal abortion laws of almost every state violate a constitutional “right of privacy” and must therefore be struck down. ”  Newsweek, 1973

How poignant and prophetic statement it would prove to be when Newsweek claimed “a 3rd event (Roe v Wade)” that took place that week would have such a “lasting  influence on American life.”

No matter how it happened, the reality is that: it happened! Did the church or American Christians fall asleep at the wheel leading up to January, 1973? I don’t know. Now, you may be like me and say “I wasn’t around or I was just a kid when Roe v Wade happened” but as Christians who are American citizens that is not enough. We  must deal with where we are now and what scripture tells us. In Proverbs 24:11 it says “Rescue those who are being taken away to death;   hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”
   does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,  and will he not repay man according to his work?”

There is a clear and a specific call here for us to “rescue.”  But just what does that mean here in Proverbs 24?  Michael Spielman (with Abort73) is helpful here:

“Like almost all Biblical proverbs, the text gives us no indication as to what specific injustice, if any, the author has in mind. It serves as a general guideline for what God’s people are called to do in the face of violent injustice. If innocent human beings are in danger, God-fearing people are to come to their rescue. This proverb becomes even more poignant in light of verse 12. The author anticipates circumstances in which injustice will be cloaked to such an extent that people, with some plausibility, will be able to deny that they had any knowledge of it. We are warned against taking up such an excuse and reminded that God knows our every thought. False claims of ignorance will do us no good on the day of judgment.

Let us ask ourselves then, are there people among us, right here in America, who are stumbling towards the slaughter? Are there injustices in our day that God would have us raise our voices against? Yes, and yes. Abortions occur thousands of times a day, affecting nearly every community in the nation, yet most Christians barely give it a thought. We know it’s happening; we know it’s bad; but we seem content to remain as uninformed as possible, as if a general ignorance on the subject will somehow clear us of moral responsibility. According to Proverbs 24, this is a very dangerous line of reasoning to take.

God knows our hearts, and he will repay each of us according to the work we’re doing (or not doing) to rescue those who would otherwise be slaughtered. And just in case you feel the word “slaughter” is too severe to apply to abortion, think again. “Slaughter” is defined as either “the brutal or violent killing of a person,” or “the killing of great numbers of people.” Abortion fits both definitions. It’s hard to imagine a death more brutal or violent than having your body literally torn to pieces. And if the more than 50 million American children who have already lost their lives to legal abortion don’t qualify as “great numbers of people,” then the term is meaningless. Can any of us point to another injustice, happening in America today, for which Proverbs 24 would be more applicable?”

Some may say, “but it is legal, so what can I do?”  Remember the convicting words of Martin Luther King when he said: “Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.” So we must look to speak and act in such a way to help “rescue” the innocent that are perishing.  Proverbs 31:8-9 says:“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute.
Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
So if you are a Christian you must look beyond this just being a social action to get involved in but see it as a call and command of God that we must embrace!

I emphasize such action words like “speaking” and “rescuing(in this case the unborn) because the  invisibility of abortion can lead to a deep apathy. By “invisibility” I mean that an abortion happens in a alleged “clinic” or doctor’s office it is not the open injustice that has happened with some genocides or terrorist attacks. Take what happened in our country on 9/11/01. It was a terrible tragedy but to not have responded, to do nothing, that would have been absolutely unthinkable!  But 50 million more than the amount of people that were killed on 9/11 have been killed in the US “legally” due to abortion! So that invisibility can lead to apathy because for many of us what happens with abortions may not be a leading news headline or something we are dealing with personally. That in and of itself is a tragedy. As Albert Mohler notes that “Abortion is now one of America’s most common surgical procedures performed on adults” and as he notes “the normalcy” of it in America is one of the most chilling aspects about abortion.

My years in ministry though has shown me that abortion is often a hidden sin in more Christians’ lives than most church going folks realize. I will never forget, years ago, sitting in an ethics class in seminary where the professor showed us a shocking video that showed what happens in abortions and to aborted babies. I was moved as I shed some tears over the graphic depiction of little lives snuffed out. As I looked around the room some were moved like I was while others began to openly and almost uncontrollably weep. Soon the weeping turning to confessing as they shared how the had fathered a child that was aborted or helped others in the abortion process. I am grateful to have seen James 5:16 (Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed) lived out that day. But the more memorable thing was that there in that room of dozens of current and future gospel ministers were lives that had come in close contact with abortion.  It is a telling reminder to me to always try to handle the topic with much grace as you never now what lives have been directly impacted by abortion.

So how do we respond?  Here are some tips for starters:

1) We must pray about the situationThis is spiritual warfare, meaning it is ultimately a spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:10-12).  Pray for Christians to get involved in the pro-life causes. Pray for pregnant women considering abortion. Pray for God to close abortion clinics.   Pray for pro-life judges to receive Senate confirmation, especially to the Supreme Court. Pray for the horrors of abortion to become obvious to our self-centered culture.

2) Be informed, ignorance is not an excuse. There are a TON of great resources out there. Let me help navigate through some of them:

  • If there was only one website you could go to, I would recommend it be Abort73. It is you one stop shop for video, resources, gear, and helpful info that is biblically driven with the goal of stopping abortion and advocating to stop it.
  • Know where your crisis pregnancy centers are. If you live in South Carolina here is a list: South Carolina region crisis pregnancy centers Care-Net is a Christian network of pregnancy centers with lots of good online resources. If you don’t know where pregnancy center is near you, then go here and put in your zip code: http://www.optionline.org/
    Meet the staff, become familiar with it, & see how you can volunteer or advocate for them.

(3)     We can vote for pro-life candidatesDon’t vote for pro-abortion/pro-choice candidates! This timely as we are facing a presidential election. You ask, “Are you a one-issue voter?” I grant that just being pro-life does not qualify a person as a good political leader. But being pro-abortion/pro-choice should disqualify anyone from public office. For example, if a candidate said, “I believe that Native-American people should not hold public office,” that one issue should disqualify the candidate from office. Why doesn’t favoring killing babies disqualify a candidate?   If you don’t know much about the candidates then check out Right to Life.

(4) We can write/email our legislators and the newspaper to support the pro-life causes. Hold them accountable as much as possible! Again, National Right to Life can be helpful to stay abreast of legislative issues and links to help keep you be  informed locally.

(5)     We can support the pro-life cause with our money and time. Godly women are needed to counsel young women with problem pregnancies, so that they choose life for their babies. Godly families that are able should consider taking in such young women and helping them carry their babies to term. There are many ways to get involved. This is just intended to help us start.

(6)  Know the Gospel, Fear God.   This is last, but the most important.  Never let your driving focus be the Pro-Life causes, but an unwavering commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My hope here is that all reading this know Jesus, truly and have come to a place in your life you have turned from your sins and trusted in Him. If not please consider the dangerous and deadly road you are on and understand that we all have the choice of 2 ways to live. Please leave me a comment if you want to know more about this.  But, if you are a Christian, you must know the Gospel and realize that it is not the “good works” of pro-life advocacy that saves us but the  instead the grace of God through faith (Ephesians 2:8-10). But if we have been saved by God this way we will desire to do these good works.

If the Gospel of Jesus Christ is your driving motivation then you know that  “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10).   Let’s unpack that briefly to apply it to our discussion. The reason that people have abortions is ultimately they don’t fear God.  So that right and holy fear drives us; but if people seeking abortions or believing it being a “right” feared God they wouldn’t do it because Proverbs 8:13 says “The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil.”  More could obviously be said  about the Gospel and the fear of God but may it be our driving motivation.

Conclusion: Rescue & Speak Church!

Let is hear the call from the prophet Jeremiah: “Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.” (Jeremiah 22:3)

Let us speak for the innocent and seek to rescue them. Let us not feel overwhelmed at all there needs to be done and know that we can’t do it and then fall into Satan’s snare and not do anything at all. Pray and see how specifically God wants you to Rescue & Speak up! If we don’t let us remember those words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” Let us not betray those precious little innocent lives. Let us weep and repent over this tragic 42 year anniversary and then let us speak church so we can expose this deed of darkness with light. Let us speak about sanctity of life very specifically, consistently, thoughtfully, humbly, biblically, and graciously with Holy Spirit empowered boldness. Let us speak out of an abundance of the love of Christ,with a commitment to expose these evil deeds, and a motivation to love our neighbors by rescuing the innocent.

R.C. Sproul  (in his work: Abortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue) says  that “the organized church – more than any other institution apart from the Supreme Court – has neglected its duty to inform the public conscience (about abortion).  If the church says that abortion is a horrific injustice, but acts as if it’s no big deal, what is the world going to conclude?” Let it not be true of us, we must speak and we must rescue.

*this is an edited/updated post that was originally posted on 1/21/12.

“I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.  August 28, 1963

It has been over 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr. made his famous “I have a dream” speech. This is the day that our county honors and I hope many of us reflect on the sacrifices made by Dr. King (and many others) to see the dream of racial equality begin to happen in our country.

Last week I picked my 5 year old son up from school. One of his best friends (an African-American) boy ran up to give him a goodbye hug and then he talked about one of their other friends (an Asian-American) and it made me pause and think of Dr. King’s speech. I believe that today a bit of that dream had certainly come true. These young friends played with each other and had no passing thoughts of skin color or ethnic background.

It is truly a different place in America than when Dr. King had to boycott those Montgomery buses in 1955-1956. Though we are so often reminded there is much work to do in our country and in our churches in the area of racial harmony, I am grateful to God that we now live in a land that can be freely led by an African-American as President.  And though I may not agree on all our President’s politics nor  would I agree on  Dr. King’s theology;  I am deeply indebted that he had a just dream and gave his life for it. While a bit of that dream has been realized I know it will only fully come to pass when there are those worshipping King Jesus from  “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Revelation 7:9). On that day racism will take it’s final blow.

I am grateful by God’s grace to be a part of a Gospel-driven racial reconciliation movement of ministers where I live (though this article does not emphasize the “Gospel” focus)and may we all strive to answer in our on way what MLK Jr. said was life’s most persistent and urgent question: ‘What are you doing for others?’

Here are some resources helpful to reflect and equip us to remember Dr. King and the areas of racial harmony.

John Piper does a great service to us with his recent contribution called Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian. He had made it a free PDF download on MLK Day and you can download it here.

Take the time to download it and read it! If you are not into digitally reading go ahead and buy a copy here.

A must read is Dr. Russell Moore’s “How Martin Luther King Jr. Overcame ‘Christian’ White Supremacy.”

You can see a powerful short video documentary about the book and his experiences growing up in the turbulent 60s south:  http://vimeo.com/crosswaymedia/bloodlines

Here Ed Stetzer gives a look at Dr. Martin Luther King’s Letter to American Christians that is just as applicable now as it was in 1956.

Of course you can go straight to the King Center for resources.

Take the time to hear Dr. King give his “I have a dream” speech.

Before Dr. Martin Luther King was a major civil rights leader he was a pastor and preacher. The Bible Gateway Blog takes a look at the Bible passages behind MLK’s  speeches.

If you have never watched it take some time in the near future to wath the PBS documentary: “Eyes On The Prize” that chronicles America’s Civil Rights Movement from 1954-1985. Unfortunately, PBS does not air as often as they used to but the series is available on DVD and most episodes on youtube. In the first episode called: Awakenings, you see a young 26-year-old pastor, Martin Luther King, Jr.;  “accidentally” become the leader in the Montgomery Civil Rights movement that leads to national prominence.

Jason L. Sanders gives some great insights into MLK and the Tyranny of Having a Day Off.

While Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most well known “I have a Dream” speech was delivered in August 1963 I believe one of his most powerful quotes came from a sermon he delivered at New York City’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated. Where he said:

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

*this post was  originally written January 16,2012 and has been edited  and reposted.

This #Thanksgiving season I would like to take a minute to say how grateful I am for my friends, family, a supportive community, and followers of Christ that have prayed & partnered in various ways as we’ve launched refugee ministry in the upstate region of South Carolina. I feel a bit like the Apostle Paul when he expressed his gratitude to the  Philippians:  “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” ~Philippians 1:3-6

It has been a wild 9 months today the least!  But I am deeply grateful for you and for God’s faithfulness as He sits on the throne in His sovereignty & majesty. I was praying Psalm 9 earlier and it reminded me to share all of His wondours deeds with all. 

I would like to do that by first briefly sharing what I wrote to our World Relief supporters just 2 days ago: 

Wow. It has been a crazy 10+ days since the Paris attacks and while there is much to tell you about our office locally here in our upstate of South Carolina, I will put it on hold as I do want to encourage you with various resources to help think through the complex issues of refugees and refugee resettlement here in the US(with a bit of help from my World Relief colleagues whose thoughts I have intertwined with my own).

Like a tsunami, waves of terror from the Paris attacks are crashing upon American shores. Valid questions continue to pour in about the U.S. refugee resettlement screening process despite the fact  that out of 3.2 million refugees welcomed to the US since 1980 none have been convicted of terrorism on US soil. Securing personal safety – in the face of sometimes overwhelming fear – drives these understandable questions.

 Answers are not difficult to come by; but not every answer is actually grounded in the facts. Ideological agendas have seeded an answer-seeking rumor mill that spreads myths-as-fact via social media. As Charles Spurgeon quipped, “A lie can travel halfway around the world, while the truth is still putting on its boots.” While we continue to pray for justice to be done in finding the Paris attackers it is important to note that NOT ONE of the attackers has been identified to be a Syrian refugee. While several of the perpetrators exploited Europe’s immigration crisis to enter the continent undetected ALL the attackers and accomplices named thus far are all European citizens. 

While we do not have any Syrian refugees in South Carolina and never had plans to serve any here in 2016 we continue to pray for that war torn country and those fleeing that look for safety. In fact while we do pray for the Syrian refugee crisis and justice for the Paris attacks, we hope you will also join us in praying for our refugees that now call the Spartanburg & Greenville area home as 84% of those we’ve welcomed this year are Christians. 

Church leaders like Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals,have called for reasonable security combined with Christian compassion, “Of course we want to keep terrorists out of our country, but let’s not punish the victims of ISIS for the sins of ISIS.” “It is completely right to ensure that the United States have a strong process to discern who are truly refugees and who are trying to take advantage of refugees,” says Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, but “we cannot love our neighbors at the same we’re standing aside and watching them be slaughtered.”

Screening out terrorists is imperative and is the responsibility of our country’s national security agencies and you can give a quick read here to the rigorous and detailed 13-step process of health and security screening a refugee goes through normally taking at least 18-24 months AFTER they accepted as an applicant into the U.S. refugee program. There’s much more detailed information on the rigorous security screening process from the Department of Homeland Security that outlines the vetting process a refugee goes through here an  that can also be seen in a short 4-minute video format here. That said…as Christians, what is our unique responsibility as followers of Jesus in all of this? What should we be most concerned about – should it be our safety?

 Let’s take a step back. What if we moved from a security-centered refugee conversation to a Jesus-centered refugee conversation? It might look like exploring the Scriptures surfaced in Relevant Magazine’s article, “What the Bible Says about How to Treat Refugees.” It might also look like Christians in the West learning from Christians in the majority world who face terror and persecution daily as explained in the Christianity Today article, “Terrorists are Now the Persecuted Church’s Greatest Threat.” It might look like Christians asking the question, “What is God up to?” like the Desiring God blog hat sees a sovereign God purposefully bringing the nations (rather than fear) to our shores.

 A Jesus-centered refugee conversation might cause us to remember that we are in fact following a Middle Eastern Refugee Savior whose family fled a genocide to Egypt. We might remember that our biblical identity as “strangers and aliens” here on earth makes us Christians first and Americans second – not the other way around.

Jesus-centered refugee conversation that is driven by God’s Word should cause us to love. This includes embracing Jesus’ difficult command to love our enemies and not only loving our neighbors but as we all must walk on the Jerico Road let us, empowered by love, ask the tough question in our context “who is my neighbor?” As we answer that call to show mercy may His love cast out fear:”There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.”~1 John 4:18-19.

A Jesus-centered refugee conversation might look like learning how to follow a God who “did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32). This same sacrificial God commands us to “welcome the stranger” and “love him [the immigrant] as yourself” (Leviticus 19:34).

Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. ~ Jeremiah 22:3

And as we move from conversation to action, how might we respond? Welcome a vulnerable refugee family into your community by exploring how to : 

  • Join/start a Good Neighbor Team, 
  • Help with transportation needs (email: Spartanburg@wr.org for info)
  • Donate furniture that will go to furnish a newly arriving refugee’s home or start a furniture donation drive at your church. The list of furniture needed (& info on our local donation center) is here.   
  • Other volunteer opportunities through our South Carolina office are here
  • Collecting a “Welcome Kit” of household(besides furniture) items refugees need  upon their arrival. Collecting these kits can be a great mission project for any size or age of a small group of people. Items needed and info is here.
  • Of course you can also consider a generous gift by donating here.

Let our actions also be informed. Domestic and international experts offered facts to debunk refugee myths circulating the headlines and gave practical insight into how everyday US American Christians can respond to the refugee crisis in local ways that ripple positively throughout the globe on this webinar.

While Congress has proposed a bill, H.R. 4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act, aimed at helping increase security measures with incoming Syrians and Iraqis; we do oppose it because it only seems to add levels of bureaucracy the process that does not ultimately improve it.

As the tides of terror wash up on your emotional shores, make sure your fears are not being whipped up by rumors or by a loss of focus on Jesus. Following Him as we welcome refugees into our homes and hearts might be the courageous mission He is inviting us to join. Thanks for your commitment to the vulnerable.

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun” Psalm 37:5-6

Jason Lee, Director of World Relief Spartanburg

For more information and current answers to frequently ask questions go to our partner website: http://www.wewelcomerefugees.com/faq

For other assistance or more information please email us at: Spartanburg@wr.org or call 864-642-2626.
November 24, 2015 as addressed to volunteers, supporters, pastors, & church partners. 

As I am grateful for much this Thanksgiving may I encourage you with
Psalm 9 that has so encouraged me (eph. 1-4, 7-10):

“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. When my enemies turn back, they stumble and perish before your presence. For you have maintained my just cause; you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment…….But the Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness. The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”  

And let us cling to our God who promises in verse 12: “he does not forget the cry of the afflicted. “


I am not doing an annual Halloween/Missional/Reformation Day post, but many are like my friend at Here I Blog as he covers the old debate of dealing with Halloween as Christians should . There are some good posts out there for this season so check them out as you prepare for the night of October 31 or as you recline and wait for your kids to come off a sugar high.

Ed Stetzer discusses why you should go Trick-Or-Treating tonight.

Craig Thompson at Passion for Preaching answers the question Why Christians Have a Responsibility to Observe Halloween? It is a good read and discusses as Christians we shouldn’t just provide a safe alternative to Halloween, but we are to launch a full frontal assault on the gates of hell.

You’ll want to check out this catchy brief video on the origin of Halloween

Maybe you are like my friend, church historian Nathan Finn, as he’ll celebrate “Reforween“, it’s his favorite holiday and his family will be nailing zombies to the church door and passing out candy to monks😉

WHY BRING REFUGEES TO SPARTANBURG ?

            Two years ago, some evangelicals here began to hear about refugees. We learned the need, the process, and the biblical mandate. God loves all people, since we are created in His image, but has special compassion for groups not as able to make it on their own, such as widows & orphans when only adult males had jobs or property. The Bible has much to say about God’s heart for the stranger from elsewhere; contact me for a written summary.

The first New Testament refugees were Mary & Joseph, who took Jesus to Egypt for a few years when the king tried to kill him. Millions are refugees today because hostile regimes, terrorists, or warring tribes wiped out their village or took over their country. Those who escape with their lives, children, & the clothes on their backs walk to refugee camps across the border. After years in these tent cities, the lucky ones get to relocate to countries around the world which receive refugees. The U.S. government will accept up to 70k refugees a year, who all come here as “legal.”

I disagree politically with much about the United Nations, but it operates the world’s refugee camps, the source pool for refugees. The U.S. delivery system is 9 agencies authorized to resettle them. Some are faith-based, such as Lutheran Services, which has been the only SC agency. They have long resettled new refugees through their Columbia headquarters, with now a satellite office in Greenville for relatives of refugees already there.

Our state and the U.S. State Department have approved Spartanburg as a resettlement site for sixty refugees this year through World Relief, that is part of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Its other sites are primarily in big cities, but Spartanburg has the highest international population percent of any county in SC, and the most foreign business investment per capita of any county in the U.S. Our Chamber of Commerce has a giant sculpture of the globe, flanked by flags of a dozen counties. This says, “The world has come here, and the world is welcome here!” Across the street at Barnet Park, our city conducts the International Festival. Our city has residents from over 70 countries. USC-Upstate has had students or faculty from over 80 countries. Things like this are why Spartanburg can be entrusted with refugees.

Who are the refugees, from where, and what effect will they have here? Half the refugees worldwide are Christian. The majority of Christian refugees who are resettled come to the U.S. Acts 17:24-27 says that God, who made every nation of men from Adam, has determined in advance the times and places where they live, and He migrates peoples so that they may find Him. Refugees may come here from places we cannot send missionaries.

When World Relief met with over fifty people here last August, refugees were coming from Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, and Nepali speakers from Bhutan. The millions of Syrian refugees fleeing ISIS have begun to be resettled, while we may get a few, the U.S. State Department has estimated only 1-2,000 Syrian refugees will be resettled in 2015[1]. The local Spartanburg office of World Relief or the “Good Neighbor Team” can decline a matchup assigned them if they are in any way uncomfortable with it. The Georgia church I pastored in the 1980’s resettled Cambodian refugees. It was a great experience, and they are still active in the church and run businesses in that community. They seemed so different from us when they came, but as we got to know them, we realized that they have much more in common with us.

Spartanburg’s last refugees actively resettled were the Ukrainians who came here in the early 2000’s. Lutheran Services brought some them here directly from the Ukraine as religious refugees: Pentecostals & evangelicals persecuted by the Orthodox church. Most gravitated here from other states, after hearing good things their people said about Spartanburg. They rented at first, but most are now homeowners. Their work ethic makes them great employees, and some now own businesses. Our county now has a dozen Ukrainian churches!

Refugees will arrive later this year. World Relief has hired and is training the local Director, has interviewed for additional staff roles. Over 100 persons from twenty churches have committed to be on “good neighbor teams” to help resettle a refugee family. They would find housing the family could afford, stock it with used furniture & household goods, pick up the family at the airport and take them there, showing them how things work in American homes. They will take them to health screenings, to get social security numbers, get the children vaccinations and in school, help the adults learn English if necessary, and get training and find jobs.

The U.S. has always been a nation of immigrants, including all of us not descended from Native American tribes. My ancestors came on their own initiative, in more favorable circumstances. Refugees were content in their home countries, until forced out. I cannot imagine having to flee my home on the spur of the moment without even a suitcase, live for years in a refugee camp, and start over from scratch in a strange place. The grace of God has spared me from the horrors refugees have experienced. I am willing to share with them the love of God in the city I love.

by Dr. Jim Goodroe, March 29 (edited for web by Jason Lee 3/31)

[1] http://www.newsweek.com/us-congress-questions-plan-admit-syrian-refugees-303121

 

“I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.  August 28, 1963

It has been over 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr. made his famous “I have a dream” speech. This is the day that our county honors and I hope many of us reflect on the sacrifices made by Dr. King (and many others) to see the dream of racial equality begin to happen in our country.

Last week I picked my 5 year old son up from school. One of his best friends (an African-American) boy ran up to give him a goodbye hug and then he talked about one of their other friends (an Asian-American) and it made me pause and think of Dr. King’s speech. I believe that today a bit of that dream has certainly come true. These young friends played with each other and had no passing thoughts of skin color or ethnic background.

It is truly a different place in America than when Dr. King had to boycott those Montgomery buses in 1955-1956. Though we are often reminded there is much work to do in our country(see the recent events in Ferguson & New York City) and in our churches in the area of racial harmony, I am grateful to God that we now live in a land that can be freely led by an African-American as President.  And though I may not agree on all our President’s politics nor  would I agree on all Dr. King’s theology;  I am deeply indebted that he had a just dream and gave his life for it. While a bit of that dream has been realized I know it will only fully come to pass when there are those worshiping King Jesus from  “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Revelation 7:9). On that day racism will take it’s final blow.

Here are some resources helpful to reflect and equip us to remember Dr. King and the areas of racial harmony.

John Piper does a great service to us with his recent contribution called Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian. He had made it a free PDF download on MLK Day and you can download it here.

Take the time to download it and read it! If you are not into digitally reading go ahead and buy a copy here.

You can see a powerful short video documentary about the book and his experiences growing up in the turbulent 60s south:  http://vimeo.com/crosswaymedia/bloodlines

Here Ed Stetzer gives a look at Dr. Martin Luther King’s Letter to American Christians that is just as applicable now as it was in 1956.

Of course you can go straight to the King Center for resources.

Take the time to hear Dr. King give his “I have a dream” speech.

Before Dr. Martin Luther King was a major civil rights leader he was a pastor and preacher. The Bible Gateway Blog takes a look at the Bible passages behind MLK’s  speeches.

If you have never watched it take some time in the near future to wath the PBS documentary: “Eyes On The Prize” that chronicles America’s Civil Rights Movement from 1954-1985. Unfortunately, PBS does not air as often as they used to but the series is available on DVD and most episodes on youtube. In the first episode called: Awakenings, you see a young 26-year-old pastor, Martin Luther King, Jr.;  “accidentally” become the leader in the Montgomery Civil Rights movement that leads to national prominence.

Finally, Jason L. Sanders gives some great insights into MLK and the Tyranny of Having a Day Off.

Marty Duren has posted 15 quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Here is a sermon I preached last year at Oak Grove Baptist Church in a series called “Do Justice” on this topic that is titled: Racial Harmony and the Cross. You can listen or download it here

Christian Audiobook is giving a Free download of “Letter from Birmingham Jail” audiobook through January 21. Go here.

But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24)

*this post was  originally written January 16,2012 and has been  edited, updated, and reposted.