He Calls Us to be Light

I have seen their misery. I have heard their cries. I am concerned about their suffering. And I am sending you.

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God sends us. He looses us to be part of His redemptive plan. He is the God of light and justice. And He calls us to be light-bearers and justice fighters.

God loosed my spiritual chains many years ago. He delivered me from emotional and spiritual entrenchment. And then He sent me to be a light-bearer in a dark world. I don’t always want to be a light-bearer. Sometimes I feel like Moses. Who am I, Lord? I’m one light. One voice. One person. One pray-er.

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Last week, a friend died. He was young, and his death left too many unanswered questions about what happened. We may never know, but God knows.

My friend was someone who had a gaping hole in his soul. A hole that I could not fill. I know the One who could have filled that hole. And I tried to bring light into his world and tell my friend about the One who fills the empty places.

But sometimes the pain is immense. Sometimes the hole is as deep as the sea. Sometimes the darkness is overpowering.

Today I asked God that same question: who am I, Lord? And He reminded me that I was not God. Yet God is with me. The Existent One Who Abides with me was also with my friend when the darkness became too much.

I confess I am an American who would rather have an American Jesus than the real Jesus. I want Jesus to take my problems and unanswered questions solve them in 30 minutes and serve the solution to me in a big red box with a bow on top.

Instead, Jesus says, “I am with you…until the very end of the age”. So, today, I am trusting God that His love, compassion, and justice are bigger than my doubts and fears. I am trusting that the God of all the earth will do what is right and good. And I am trusting that I will see my friend again when we both stand on the other side of glory in the presence of the Existent One Who Abides with us.

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Refugees: what we’re doing & how you can help

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It has been a tumultuous week in Washington D.C. and around the nation. The reality of new foreign policy has offered up sad and disheartening news for many seeking refuge.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matt. 5:3

At times like these, we ask ourselves if there is anything we can do to make a difference in the world. I would love to give you a clean, no-frills, do this answer. But there is no one right answer when faced with darkness and suffering.

As followers of Christ, we are called to stand with the widow, orphan, alien, and marginalized. Most of us have little power to do anything about the things that are happening in D.C. and the political spectrum. Policies are passed that affects millions and we have no voice or power to overturn it.

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Here is what we, the Church of the Nazarene, are currently doing to help refugees in the U.S. and around the world:

We have laypersons, pastors, and missionaries at “ground zero” caring for refugees in their countries of origin. The Nazarene Church in Scotland (yes, we are in Scotland) are taking in displaced refugees, giving them asylum, and teaching them English as a second language.

In Hungary (yes, we are in Hungary), we are supplying food, clothing, and tents at refugee camp sites. We also have churches in all European countries including Germany and the U.K. Our churches are working with government and non-profit agencies to supply food and medical attention.

In the Middle East and other Creative Access Areas, we are supplying education for refugee children who are unable to attend school.

And here, in the U.S., we continue to care for refugees by helping them walk through the immigration process. The Board of Immigration Appeals allows non-profit organizations such as churches to be trained in immigration law and offer immigration legal services. The Church of the Nazarene continues to offer training for pastors and lay ministers to raise up new ministry outreach to immigrants and refugees. Our district has several pastors currently in training.

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In the Church of the Nazarene, we believe hope is still alive. We also believe God asks us to be part of His plan. Here is what you can do:

Pray. I know. It seems so lame. But we continue to trust in a God who hears the cries of His people. If we don’t pray, then who will? So please pray especially for the workers in the fields; those who are working directly with refugees. Ask God to give them strength so they would not grow weary in doing good. Pray for those who work directly with immigration laws. Pray for God to raise up men and women of God who can directly affect foreign policy for the good of humankind. Pray for the money and resources needed to care for those who have been displaced. And pray for an end to war and violence no matter how small.

Give. Ugh. Everyone wants money. But it takes money to care for refugees. You can give online here. Any amount, even $1, will help. You can give at your local Nazarene church on Sunday by marking your envelope “refugee crisis”. You can also mail a check to the church and we will make sure it gets to the Refugee and Immigrant Nazarene Support Fund; mail it to this address.

Share. You can also check out these resources here. And, if you know of additional resources, please share them with us by contacting us here.

I hope we will work together to make this world a better place. Let’s bring the light of Christ into a dark season. Wake up. We have work to do!

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Gatekeepers Gone Rogue

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Gatekeepers gone rogue.

Gates keep people, animals, and other things either in or out. The gate keeps my dog in the yard. And the gate (hopefully) keeps the neighbor’s dog out. The toll gate keeps me from using the bridge for free. And the security gate keeps us safe from would-be terrorists or school shooters.

We also have gates in the faith community. Imaginary gates with unrealistic expectations. And these gates quite often have gatekeepers.

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The evangelical church world has been plagued by gatekeepers for many years now. These keepers of the gate feel compelled to decide who goes in and who stays out. But, to be fair, Jesus faced similar experiences in His day. So, in practice, the Church has been plagued for 2000 years, not 200 years.

In John’s Gospel, while addressing the Pharisees and gatekeepers, Jesus uses this figure of speech…

“The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice”. (John 10:2-5)

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I believe there are two misconceptions within the Church today that set us up for these rogue gatekeepers.

The first misconception is the idea that we are to bring people into the church and keep others (unbelievers, deceivers, wolves in sheep’s clothing) out. It gives the impression that we, as Believers, are the ones who are captive. We view Believers as enclosed with strict boundaries, gates, and fences.

Yet, the picture that Jesus paints for us is the idea of being called out into open spaces. He leads us into green pastures where we are free to run and explore with Him safely by our side. It is the one who does not yet know Him who is trapped behind gates and fences. Instead, Jesus tells us that he whom the Son sets free is free indeed!

And He calls us by name.

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The second misconception is our role as gatekeepers. We view our role as someone who keeps people in or out. But Jesus tells us our role is to open the gate for Him.

The gatekeeper opens the gate for Him!

Our role is to open the gate to let Jesus into people’s lives. We are called to do whatever it takes so they can hear Him calling them by name. We open the gate to let Jesus in and to let people out; to set them free!

Jesus goes into the places where people are trapped. Trapped by sin, pride, anger, and pain. Trapped by the vices and empty promises of the world. Trapped by fences, walls, unrealistic expectations, and irreconcilable differences. And we, the gatekeepers, let Him in so He can lead them out.

Only Jesus can lead them out because they recognize His voice. We can only open the gate.

In 2017, let’s be true gatekeepers! Let us fling open wide the gates so the King of Heaven can come in and lead us out into green pastures. Here’s to a new year of open gates!

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