Friday, December 21, 2012

Judgement from God? Sorry Dr. Dobson, I think not...

Accompanying all the publicity about the shootings in Newtown, CT recently have been the tragically cliche like responses of many on the religious right.

Almost immediately these closet theologians came out claiming the multiple deaths were evidence of God’s judgement.  Much like after Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy and the tsunami that hit Japan, Facebook and Gmail lit up with messages exhorting us to return to God or face countless death and destruction until we got the message.

Dr. James Dobson, long a hero of conservative evangelicals had this to say on a recent radio broadcast... “...a lot of these things are happening around us, and somebody is going to get mad at me for saying what I am about to say right now, but I am going to give you my honest opinion: I think we have turned our back on the Scripture and on God Almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us. I think that's what's going on."

Often when pastors and leaders make an attempt to explain the mind and actions of God, they look to passages like this one found in Jeremiah 22...

Why has the Lord done such a thing to this [us]? And the answer will be “Because [you] have forsaken the covenant of the Lord [your] God and have worshiped and served other gods.”

Let’s not mince words here.  Clearly we can see in the teachings of the prophets a distinct warning from God that, in essence, He will not be mocked.  He wants His people to be holy and set apart for His purposes.  

In this understanding of scripture, Dobson, and others like him over the years, men like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and more recently Mike Huckabee have been correct in calling America to a faith rooted in a solid belief in God Almighty.

However it is precisely at that point where many in the evangelical community are now parting with a view that God is bringing these calamities, both natural and man made, onto us because of a lack of faith and/or trust in God.

The problem isn’t a lack of faith and trust in God.  The problem for the Dobson/Huckabee crowd is the fact that evangelicals have moved on.  

We are just not that into a faith where those on the inside determine, through some sort of external observation, who is and who isn’t Godly enough.

Let me give you an example.

A few years back the son of a very dear friend of mine in Mexico was riding in the back of a pickup truck.  While waiting at a stoplight in Guadalajara, they were rear ended, resulting in near total paralysis from the neck down for a previously young healthy 16 year old boy.

I will never forget walking with the father after that accident.  He grabbed my arm to ask me a question.  Hermano David, he asked with tears welling up in eyes, do you think my son is paralyzed because God is refusing to hear my prayers due to lack of faith on my part?

This man, one of my heroes of faith for his constant trust in God through the most trying of circumstances was questioning his faith.  Why?  Because a pastor had told him that God hears and answers the prayers of a faithful man.  Obviously, because he wasn’t getting the answer he desired, it was due to a lack of faith.

Just like an earthquake, a hurricane, a tsunami or even a mass shooting are due to a lack of faith and rejection of God.

Excuse me, but what a load of crap. 

But let’s for a moment, take this theological belief seriously.

What should be our response?  What would be the return to God that the prophets, men like Jeremiah, Amos, Zechariah and Isaiah, envision?

Jeremiah, like the other prophets, in that same passage where he admonishes us for turning our back on God, calls us to defend the cause of the poor and needy... that, he says is what it means to know God.  That he says, is the Good News!

That is the response we are called to live... a response of justice, love and mercy, to the least of these.  We are called to live the Good News, serving, rather than condemning others.  It is a call expressed over and over again in the prophetic literature of the Old Testament and affirmed by Jesus in the New Testament.  

Yet for some reason the response I frequently hear regarding returning to God from many on the religious right is to demonize gays, self deport immigrants without papers and cut welfare payments like SNAP and WIC.  I never hear them trumpeting God’s call to stand on the side of the poor or the least of these, proclaiming justice, mercy and peace.

I have no problem saying America and everyone else on the planet should turn to God, just as James Dobson and all the others have expressed.

I just have a problem that the way they seem to want that faith lived out bears little or no  resemblance to how the prophets and Jesus have called us to live. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

75 Innocent Children Killed Everyday... and who notices?

The killer walked in unannounced, like a demon stalking his prey.

One moment everything in the village seemed fine and then that tranquility was shattered as the killer took the little girls life.  No one saw it coming.  No one saw the demon leave

A few miles away, the scene was the same.

Little Bernabe was quietly sleeping in his mother’s bed and then the same killer who earlier in the day had struck down a beautiful girl named Lilia struck again, and Bernabe was gone.

And so it went across the hillside, one village after another until at the end of the day, 20 beautiful children with their whole lives in front of them were no more.

Yet this was just in one small country in Latin America.

Sadly, the scene was going to play out in exactly the same way around the world in a macabre reign of global terror against the “least of these.”

By the end of the day more than 75 children died at the hands of this insidious killer.

Sadly, few people outside of these impoverished villages were even aware.  Beyond a few close friends, few tears fell and not one world leader attended a funeral for even one of these young innocent victims, all of whom died before ever reaching the flower of their life.

There were no words calling us to action, no promises that we would not allow this to happen again.  There was no Huffington Post, MSNBC or any other media outlet leading the charge to stop these senseless deaths.  President Obama provided no words of comfort for the victims parents or their villages.

In fact, even though every one of these 75 children who died could still be alive today, not one Senator or Congressman has taken up their cause.

Perhaps what is even sadder is that while 75 innocent children died that day, the demon would strike again the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that.

And the deaths will continue.  Each year more than 25,000 children die of hunger and hunger related illnesses.  Many of these deaths could be prevented, if only we had the will.

While the deaths in Newtown, Connecticut have transfixed the United States and others around the globe, others are asking who is speaking for the rest of the world.  Who is speaking up for children with names like Bernabe, Abideme, Olufemi or Faiza?

If the deaths of 20 children in Newtown are reason enough to warrant 24/7 coverage from the likes of CNN, why not the 75 children that will die today, and tomorrow for lack of food?

The world currently produces enough food to provide every man, woman and child a daily diet of 2500 calories.

We could totally stop this stalking demon in his tracks if only we had the will.

Will you speak for the 75?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Lumps of Coal? Never! 7 ways to bless the missionary you support this Christmas...

It’s Christmas and that means it’s time to think about a little extra for the missionaries we support.  After all, why shouldn’t they also get the joy of finding something special and unexpected in their stocking Christmas morn?

Lest you think I am being self-serving, okay, maybe I am, but this is not just about Adventures in Life.

Think of me more like the classic Macy’s Santa played by Edmund Gwenn in Miracle on 34th Street. 

In the movie, Santa promises a red fire engine to a little child whose mom gets angry because she cannot find the toy at Macy’s or anywhere else.  Rather than make excuses for Macy’s, Santa sends her to Gimbel’s Department Store, a Macy’s competitor across the street.

He wasn’t doing it for personal gain.  The Macy’s Kris Kringle was just trying to be helpful.

In that spirit, here are my suggestions for some practical gifts that will bless your missionaries, wherever they are, in 2013.

1.  Miles.  No not Miles Davis, although that would be great if your missionary loves jazz.  I am talking about frequent flyer miles.  Give your missionary the gift of miles.  If he or she needs to come home in an emergency, knowing they have a low cost way to do that can be an incredible blessing.

2.  Comfort.  If your missionary has to travel a lot, get them a one year membership in their favorite airlines travel lounge.  Trust me, if you have to spend time waiting for airline connections, a chance to relax in these lounges can be a Godsend.

3.  Music. You can’t send them CD’s, but you can give them an iTunes card and that’s even better because then they can choose what they really want.

4.  Books.  No not the big paper kind, the electronic ones.  Get your missionary a Kindle or a Nook and set them up with an account balance so they can get their first books as soon as they power up.

5.  A vacation.  Call your missionary in Romania, or where ever else they may serving and tell them you want to them on vacation.  And then give them your condo/timeshare that you never get a chance to use.  Or better yet, join them and cover the expenses for the week.

6.  Phone time.  Many people serving in other countries use pay as you go cell phones.  Get their phone number and load them up with time.  This can usually be done pretty easily on-line.

7.  An online subscription.  Get them an online subscription to their favorite magazine or newspaper.  As more and more of these move towards becoming pay sites, access for those with limited financial means becomes even more difficult.

Now I know some of these are going to be out of reach financially for you as an individual, but maybe your small group could go in together and make it happen.

Imagine the blessing, and the encouragement it would bring to someone in the field to know that not only is a group of people in the US committed to praying for them, but that together they also made a material blessing possible?

Finally, let me suggest one more way you can bless your missionaries in 2013. 

Increase their support.  For many serving in other countries, it is impossible to clearly communicate the reality of living on support.  We need people back home to step up and consider even a $20.00 a month increase in giving for His world mission.

But let me challenge you on that potential increase in giving.  Save it up, and next December, make sure they get it.  $20.00, given monthly will end up going to the regular household and ministry expenses.  But a couple hundred dollars received next year at Christmas time will really help those missionary families you know have the ability to bless their families for Christmas.

So there you have it.  7 options, a perfect biblical number, for you to consider this year, and one bonus.

We have been blessed to be a blessing... Help make this Christmas season wonderful for the missionaries you know, pray for, and support.

Merry Christmas!