Archive for January, 2017

I was at the #MarchForLife in Washington D.C. yesterday*. I couldn’t escape the difficult contradiction that while thousands were marching for life our U.S. President was signing what could be a death warrant for many refugees when he signed the executive order halting refugee resettlement. The implementation of this executive order appears now to not only halt arriving refugees but possibly send them back to the country they were fleeing persecution*though it appears there have been some released.

16299365_10210861920720824_7838406244591215119_n.jpg

#WhyWeMarch was certainly about protection of the unborn and never less(I’ve preached, taught, & wrote much on this, see here). I’ve tried my best to fight for the unborn and grieve for the almost 60 million lives lost to abortion. But having a biblically-driven understanding of being pro-life means standing for all vulnerable: for the unborn, for the refugee & immigrant, fighting against racism, for orphancare, care for the elderly & disabled veterans, serving the poor, fighting against human trafficking- and the list could go on and on. I hold this robust pro-life ethic (caring & fighting for all vulnerable from the “womb to the tomb”) and am deeply grateful to have been in Washington to be a part of the Evangelicals For Life conference #EFL2017 that the ERLC hosted (thanks Russell D. Moore) around the #MarchForLife to focus on fighting against those injustices and for the vulnerable.

I had a deep struggle as I knew the President had sent VP Pence to the rally while the President headed over to the Pentagon and rallied that this executive action was a show of national defense.

While I publicly grieved and acted with thousands during the focus on the horrific 44th anniversary of Roe v. Wade I now post this after a whirlwind trip and am emotionally numb and mentally exhausted from it all. I hope to offer reflections and ways to respond later, but all I’ve said from earlier this week in a call to
Pray and Act is still true.

But now we must add a call to weep.
“Hear my prayer, O Lord,
and give ear to my cry;
hold not your peace at my tears!….” ~Psalm 39:12a

My friend and former colleague who I marched with, Matthew Soerens, wrote this for the Washington Post and it captures some of my sentiments:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/…/i-dont-only-march-for-un…/…

Since having the opportunity to minister to refugees & immigrants in various capacities for quite a few years now I’ve always had a compelling biblical call to “rescue” as found in Proverbs 24:

If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. 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.”

Much could be drawn from these verses but there is a call of helping and rescuing the vulnerable being potentially killed. The U.S. refugee resettlement program(while FAR from perfect-more on that at a later time) is an avenue to do that for us. Yes, we can go abroad and help refugees there and should; but I believe we should try to engage in the refugee crisis both ways.
Please read and and consider heeding from Ed Stetzer’s post: http://www.christianitytoday.com/…/how-to-respond-as-follow…

Do we need to talk policy and reform? Yes.
Do we need to talk about protection for our country? Absolutely.
Do we need to know facts on refugees and terrorists’ threats? You betcha.
Do we have to rest in God’s gracious sovereign plan? Yes, may the Spirit help us.

And many more conversations we need to have. But for now I can only think of more droves of precious people created in God’s image that could more easily be led to slaughter. Some I know by name.
So I stop, weep and pray.

 

*posted via Facebook on 1/28/2017

Advertisements

While news broke that President Trump will sign executive orders in many areas of immigration (from building a wall on the southern border to halting refugee resettlement) my heart grew heavy and anxious. It is best to wait and see what happens today and the details of any executive actions before speculating more. But here is some encouragement for us all:

  1. PRAY!

It sounds trite but if we are a people that are committed to believing that God can and does act when we pray.

THE RIGHTEOUS CRY, AND THE LORD HEARS AND DELIVERS THEM OUT OF ALL THEIR TROUBLES  ~PSALM 34:17

We know the situation can be overwhelming and we may know the answers but we do know that we should pray. Pray for:

  • Our President. When news broke about the coming executive actions from President Trump on immigration and refugee resettlement my social media feeds exploded. I do not think I saw one call for prayer for our President. 1 Timothy 2.1-6 is clear. While we should not stop advocating for refugees, immigrants,  immigration reform, and speaking prophetically into the government process; we must recognize the role government plays on the Romans 13:1-7 side. Pray for President Trump as he leads that he will have wisdom, discernment, compassion, and that “we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” We can all agree that leading our country is no easy task so start in 1 Timothy 2:1-6  to pray and also Russ Moore offers help .
  • Immigrants & Refugees impacted. We are facing 65 million displaced globally today and a refugee crisis like we have never seen. Refugees fleeing their homeland from persecution (or fear of) for their race, religion, political opinion, national origin, or social group need help and when we look at the needs and numbers it becomes overwhelming. But begin with praying for refugees: pray for their protection as they flee, pray for provision(food, shelter, etc.), pray for peace and resolve in their homelands. We have over 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. and many came here believing it was the only hope of a better life or even for their children to survive. While these issues are complicated let us focus on praying that all refugees and immigrants are welcomed with love and genuine hospitality and not fear. Over 5,000 migrants died crossing the Mediterranean in 2016 just looking to survive and flee persecution; what if we prayed like we believed it could stop the boats from sinking(faith to move mountains anyone?~Matthew 17:20,  Mark 11:22-24). 
  • Our Churches.  Estimates are that there are over 42 million foreign born live in the US with over 1 million visiting students and scholars. Many are from countries with little access to the gospel. Regardless of your stance on immigration policy or what you think about refugees coming to the U.S., scripture tells us that God’s hand is at work behind the movements of humanity and we need to realize that He is at work (Acts 17:24-27). God is placing the nations at our doorstep. Jesus instructs us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19) and even if new policy dictates that new immigrants and refugees can not come into the U.S. the ones that currently reside need us to serve and welcome them with the love of Christ in both word and deed. Our new Acts 17 Initiative can help equip your church for just that(so please contact us). slide1Let us pray that churches offer Christ-centered compassion to immigrants and refugees here and not be driven by fear. What if the diverse ethnicities God was bringing here was to lead to revival and renewal in our churches like we have never known? Let us be propelled to share the glorious Gospel to our new neighbors from the nations and understand that we can easily get involved in His mission to the nations at home.  Let us Pray!

2. ACT.

When I think about refugees and immigrants I am continually drawn to Proverbs 24:10-11:

“If you faint in the day of adversity,  your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death…” and

Proverbs 31:8-9: “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.”

These verses are a call to ACT. So while there are incredible compassion ministry opportunities with our newly arriving immigrant and refugee friends (and we would love to tell you about them at  Acts 17 Initiative) and there are needed opportunities for us to embrace this Gospel opportunity with biblical instruction; I want to focus briefly with a call to swift advocacy. Understanding that all refugees and immigrants (no matter their race or religion) are created in the image of God and as fellow image-bearers let us advocate on their behalf. So as we quickly face potential policy change (that has a real danger to thwart religious liberty- read here) will you take a few minutes to read and sign the Evangelical Immigration Table’s Principles here. Please let me know if you do sign them. The call to sign has been heeded by many evangelical leaders and I have posted it here below:

Our national immigration laws have created a moral, economic and political crisis in America. Initiatives to remedy this crisis have led to polarization and name calling in which opponents have misrepresented each other’s positions as open borders and amnesty versus deportations of millions. This false choice has led to an unacceptable political stalemate at the federal level at a tragic human cost. We urge our nation’s leaders to work together with the American people to pass immigration reform that embodies these key principles and that will make our nation proud. As evangelical Christian leaders, we call for a bipartisan solution on immigration that:

  • Respects the God-given dignity of every person
  • Protects the unity of the immediate family
  • Respects the rule of law
  • Guarantees secure national borders
  • Ensures fairness to taxpayers
  • Establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents

Also, please read and sign “We Welcome Refugees” call to stand in solidarity with refugees here. Friends, this is just a start of how we should advocate. Spread this messages through your social media outlets and networks of influence, we cannot be silent, let us speak for those who have no voice (Proverbs 31:8-9).

So PRAY and ACT, stay tuned, and be challenged with the words of the Psalmist:

“How long will you judge unjustly  and show partiality to the wicked?  Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” ~Psalm 82:2-4

 

“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. You can see a powerful short video documentary about the book and Piper’s experiences growing up in the turbulent 60s south.

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

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.