Monday, November 23, 2015

Dirty Bomb

We all know the expression, "Actions have consequences." Heck, chances are our mothers used to scold us with that phrase while doling out punishment for what we'd just done.

What if I told you your actions' consequences don't just affect you?

I mean, we all know the obvious ones, like the effect of giving a gift to your spouse, or hanging a kid from a fence by his underwear. No, I'm talking the small things.

That lie you told, the half-truth, the skeletons in your closet. We keep these hidden for a reason - we don't want to offend anyone or make them think differently of us.

I was challenged by a friend, today, when he said that sin has collateral damage. And I thought about that for a bit. It's true. If I were to come and confess a heavy sin that's been weighing on me to my wife, it'd be off my chest, allowing me to be free and to seek restoration and forgiveness, but it'd be weighing her down now. Now she's trying to manage the weight of that sin, dealing with the consequences.

Now, I'm not advocating hiding or sins - rust allows everything to fester and rot from the inside, but I am advocating something I'm beginning to learn: sensitivity.

At this, of course, anyone who knows me well will start laughing. After all, I have the sensitivity of a rock. That being said, though, I'm learning how important it is and how it can help mitigate the secondary, collateral damage of sin.

It's something I'm learning is important. It takes awareness and wisdom, two things I lack, but it's possible.

So, here's to wisdom and understanding. May God grant me both, that I may be a soothing balm to those I wound.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Open Doors

Okay, so this is my token contribution to the continuance of Syrian refugees in the US.

First: When I heard about the attacks in Paris, one of my first thoughts was the worry that this would encourage world leaders to shut their doors on refugees and asylum-seekers. Thankfully, this has not happened.

Second: I heard backlash against President Obama along the lines of "We need to have better screening. We can't just open our borders to thousands of refugees, some of whom may be terrorists!" (Yes, this was the first I'd heard of Obama's announcement. Don't judge me; I'm in medical school.)

Third: I saw many Christians welcoming the refugees and castigating the other Christians and conservatives for wanting to slam the door.

Now, as we all know, Facebook is the world's most accurate source of information and news. Even so, I decided to do a little digging of my own. Why? Well, because I recognise what the Bible says about loving foreigners and asylum-seekers, both in the Old Testament and the New.

Some good examples may be found here:

To further set an example, we were once considered strangers to the kingdom of God (Eph 2:11-19, Col 1:21-22)

As Christians, this should be our first point of reference: "What does the Bible say on this?"

In addition to the Bible, a clear understanding of what has actually been said and elaborated upon should probably be obtained from credible sources, not the rumour mill. 

What's most easily accessible is the number of Republican party members, all presidential hopefuls, pushing to stop the influx of refugees, citing national security. Note, these are presidential hopefuls and this is immediately following the Paris bombing, in which one suspect was, allegedly, a Syrian refugee. Is there an element of caution? Yes. Is there an element of bi-partisan power playing going on? Very likely. Are these individuals hoping to garner the increasingly xenophobic conservative ballot? Most definitely.

Something of interest, though, is that Obama made the plans to permit up to ~10k refugees way back in September and nobody batted an eyelid. All of two months ago, he made that statement and assured the public and the press that they would follow due process in granting asylum papers, a process which, for the US, is far longer than most countries. In this case, it's actually close to 1 1/2 years worth of paperwork. That means it'd be 2017 before any of these current refugees actually have their papers.

Yes, we get the comments coming from the Right that the US is most likely the main target for extremists - what else is new? Yes, we get that we don't know who these people are - that's why the long vetting process.

The more I read, the more I am convinced that this issue has become a red herring and echo chamber for conservatives who keep to Fox News and/or conservative tabloids such as Conservative Tribune. Now, I'm not knocking Fox, but when you know your news media has a bias, shouldn't you also read from another source - and not the conservative editorials of other sources - to find out the other side of the issue?

As for not having Syria's co-operation in completing the vetting process, yes that throws a wrench in the works, but it's one that, with a year and a half-long application process, should be worked over in time for the first wave to arrive. Hopefully

So, what does this mean? It means, we can take down the xenophobic posters we've just plastered all over our Facebook pages. You know, these ones:

Instead, we can respect our government (you know, that passage in Romans 13), trust that God will honour the good they seek to do, and trust that the plans set in place for our protection will work. After all, if we die, we see Christ. If we live, we have a greater opportunity for sharing the Gospel. 

I don't know about you, but I'm with Paul on this one. "To live is Christ. To die is gain"

Monday, November 9, 2015

Faith and Poverty

So, today I had a rushed time studying my Bible. I just picked James 2 to skim through and call it done, to check my little box that said I had spent time in God's word today.

Little did I know God would stop me with a verse that I'm still sitting, struggling over, uncertain in myself. And it's such a simple verse.
"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?" - James 2:14-16
This passage lies right between two already challenging passages in James. Right before it is his statement on not showing preference in treatment of those in the church or even outside of it. Immediately following it is a passage discussing how deeds are the measure by which one's faith is proven, or, more classically, "Faith without works is dead."

Where impartiality meets faith-induced work, we see the above passage.

Earlier today, I tucked a small jab at the American church over its uproar about the design change of Starbucks' cups when there are such greater needs and far better ways in which to make Christ known in the world.

That being said, I cannot let this passage go so easily, or, rather, God won't let it let go of me.

You see, I'm beginning to think God is doing something in me. He works in interesting ways, prodding us towards aspects of faith that challenge our comfortability. When we get to a point at which we say, "God, I think I get this faith and works thing. I'm doing a pretty good job of it," He is quick to point out areas in which we could use a little more stepping out in faith.

During these last couple months, in my time studying the Bible and listening to my various pastors, God has confronted me with two large areas in which my faith is not being lived out.

  1. How am I working for the benefit of the poor and needy?
  2. How am I evangelising to my peers and passers-by?
You see, I do a lot of talk, trying to mobilise others to share the Gospel or to consider those in greater need than they, maybe even encouraging them to change the manner by which they see the world, but there's a stark lack of practicing what I'm preaching.
"You say you believe in God; that is good. Even the demons believe - and they shudder" - James 2:19, paraphrase
This is God's challenge to me right now. I say I have faith and God is showing me how the faith of believers led them to actions of generosity, of benevolence, selflessness, and charity. God has set the pieces in motion and He has me in check.

It's my choice. I can walk away and God will wait, patiently. My faith will stay where it is, stunted, maybe even stagnant, as I join the rest of the world in worshipping themselves and giving lip service to God. That's the easy thing, the comfortable thing. It asks nothing of me.

God, well, he's asking. To act would involve me giving of my time - something I don't have a lot of, but I'm usually willing to chip in a couple of hours for a good cause. To act would involve trusting God for His plan - something I prefer to devise myself, of my own knowledge and understanding. To act would involve something of my money - something I also don't have a lot of, but it pays for all of my first world comforts, my food, my internet, my school.

God is telling me to shut up and put my money where my mouth is and I'm just praying and asking for the courage.

It's scary stepping out in faith. I can't think of a time in which I've ever been so torn or conflicted. I can see the way that is right, but I don't want to be uncomfortable.
"So, whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is a sin" - James 4:17
"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." - Matthew 7:13-14
 Sometimes, it's easy to forget we're not promised a comfortable life. Sure, we remember it when explaining why Christians in other countries are being killed, but we seem to forget it when God asks something tough of us.

As for me, tonight, I'll be talking to my wife, coming to one accord over what we can and should do.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

We Remember

A red sun sets upon the hill
The blood spilled on the ground
As hands which once held stones before
Stood angrily around

We remember you who go before
We remember you who've left
The name of God upon your lips
As mothers torn, bereft

A song sung from a hundred lips
Echoes across the plain
As men and women raised on high
Sing praises through the pain

We remember you who go before
We remember you who've left
The name of God upon your lips
As fathers torn, bereft

A silence filled the crowded square
Condemned upon the dais
A chop and thud cuts off the sound
Of the prisoner's last prayer

We remember you who go before
We remember you who've left
The name of God upon your lips
As sisters torn, bereft

The women scream, the comfort breaks
Unsettled houses turn
Unwelcome violence cannot still
The praises from their lips

We remember you who go before
We remember you who've left
The name of God upon your lips
As brothers torn, bereft

At last the final trumpet sounds
The grave gives up its dead
Tears will no more stain our eyes
In joy we'll live instead

We remember you who go before
We remember you who've left
The name of God upon your lips
A family born through death