Tuesday, November 17, 2015

We're All Refugees

I know you are horrified by the recent attacks in Paris.

I'm horrified too.

I know you are fearful of something similar happening in your country (and maybe not for the first time).

I have that fear too.

I know that many people are experiencing the gut-reaction of being emotionally kicked in the stomach. You want to curl into a ball and ward off the pain. You want to hold out your hands in protest to make it stop. To cease. To go back to the way things were.

I know that feeling too.

And yes, I have seen the posts and blogs and "news reports" that are angry, up-in-arms, full of national kick-butt-ary: "heck no, you can't come here and no one wants you so just go back to your own country and get what you deserve for being born into your cultural group."

In the natural, I have felt that way too.

But I'm not called to live in the natural. I'm called to live out of the nature of Christ.

And I feel this rising up in that supernatural realm of a profound compassion for the sad and sorry state of this world of ours. There is so much brokenness -- for the victims and families of this horrific attack, in the heart-muscle-memory of those of us who have experienced terrorist attacks in our own countries, and yes, even for those who are operating out of misguided theology and belief systems.

Yes, I have a sense of compassion even for them. Because I believe Jesus is full of compassion for all of us in this crazy, tangled web of sin and sorrow.

But my heart is grieved by the venom and vitrol that I see being spewed out all over social media against the refugees of Syria and other countries whose people are still fleeing persecution and for their very lives. And so much of it is coming from fellow Christians.

The petitions that are circulating to keep countries and states and neighborhood from accepting these people are a means for us to control things and to feel safe and to keep terror from invading our shores on a massive scale.

I get it.

But I don't believe in it.

Because at the heart of it all, our attempts at control fail. Sin gets in. Terror seems to be having free reign.

A signed piece of legislation and closing our borders will not change that. Because this is a spiritual issue.

Do I believe that some radicals have slipped in with some of the refugees arriving in Lesbos over the past few months?


Do I believe that papers have been forged and plans have been made to deceive, kill and destroy?


Do I believe that an entire group of persecuted people should be shoved from shorelines, tossed some provisions and sent back across the sea?

Photo Credit: United Nations

I don't.

And this is why....because we're all refugees.

For the majority of us, our "people" came from somewhere else at some point in time. For some, it's been hundreds of years, for others, only a handful of months.

The trouble comes when we feel like we have earned our place in the country we call home. That it is our divine right and we deserve to be here because...well, we are here.

The truth is that we are very, very blessed to live in countries that are virtual safe havens in comparison to the rest of the world. We haven't earned it. I'm not even sure we deserve it. But yet, here we are.

And in being here, do we then have the right to deny what we have been so richly given to someone else because we are fearful that they might be a terrorist inside the Trojan Horse of a refugee?

I was struck today by a short video that shows a reporter documenting an exchange between a father and young son about the Paris attacks.

The young boy is fearful and trying to understand how to protect against such brutality. What is the most striking is the ethnicity of these two and the fluency of the French language they are speaking. France is their home. They are obviously not native frenchman, but they are frenchmen nonetheless.

What would have happened if they would have been denied entry into France due to fear? The world would have missed out on this poignant moment and reminder that love and compassion conquers brutality and that we are all foreigners and aliens.


Do we honestly believe that all of those families arriving soaking wet and cold in rubber boats on rocky shores -- holding crying babies, terrorized toddlers and bleary-eyed children -- are just waiting to settle in so they can blow up the western world?

And yes...I realize it's not that simple.

But the world we live in is not a simple place.

Fighting the urge to slam the gates shut, bar the doors, and stand with weapons drawn may be our toughest fight yet.

Because it still gets in. Sin gets in. Terrorists terrorize. No safety measure, screening or naturalization process can be 100% effective. I understand that.

But what about the terror within our own borders? What about the disenfranchized teens that burst into schools and slaughter classmates? What about deranged middle-aged men who set off bombs in crowded Olympic villages? What about theology-warped preachers who brainwash their flocks, lock them into a building and pass around the poison?

It's not about country, culture, religion, the color of your skin, or even ISIS.

It's about sin -- plain and simple.

What if instead of building moats and trebuchets, we got down on our knees and asked God to intervene and build bridges through His Son?

What if we did the unnatural thing of remaining open and watchful, but asked and then expected God to supernaturally change hearts and minds of those bent on destruction?

What if we all rose up and picked up our spiritual armor and weapons and then went out into the world bringing His truth, deliverance, redemption, healing and transformative power?

Do we truly believe that a terrorist could come face to face with the Son of God and be redeemed and instead of blowing up buildings, he would begin to blow up the plans of the Enemy?

What if we launched a cleverly-devised, Holy Spirit-inspired battle campaign of our own?

What if we completely turned this thing on its proverbial head and instead of fearing invaders, we welcomed them because we know we possess the only thing that could neutralize their evil plots and plans?

What if we could be agents of Jesus Christ -- turning terrorists into testimonies?

I believe it's possible. And I believe it's the very heart of our Father God.

But is is probable?

I believe even now we as believers have a choice to make -- whether we are going to partner with fear and hopelessness and shut the doors of our hearts, homes and countries, or whether we are going to wedge the doors of our hearts open with the knowledge of the amazing grace in our own lives and the understanding of who we are in Him and the power that we can and should operate out of.

The Church needs to rise up. We have been commanded not to fear -- over and over again in the scriptures. And if the world has ever needed the recently battered, mocked, and all-too-often complacent Church, it's for a time such as this.

Because we have what our bruised, bleeding and confused world needs.







Confidence in a mighty God who is not blind and hears the cries of the oppressed of this world.

May we not become oppressors in our attempts to guard and protect our own way of life.

May we choose to remember the heart-breaking image of the toddler face down in the sandy shore of a broken dream of escaping to a better life, rather than the images from the carnage of recent days.

Because honestly, we are all refugees. We long to flee this crumbling, dying world for an enternal home in Heaven with no more tears and no more suffering. This world is not our home. Our homes and our countries are only a temporary camp as we wait for the eternal.

This one beautiful life is ours to either be activated agents of His grace and power, or merely security guards desperately trying to protect against invaders.

Which do you choose?

Photo credit: www.forbes.com

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Destination: Harmony; Population: Me & You

Harmony can be an elusive ideal we spend a lifetime chasing.

But, for me, Harmony is only a mere two and a half hour drive to the California coast. A nice leisurely meandering through farmland and rolling hills will deposit me in a small town consisting of exactly one street.

The city of Harmony, CA was founded by Swiss immigrants in 1869 who started dairy farms and a dairy processing operation. There was much infighting and rivalries that led to the operation changing many hands and even caused a death. In the early 1900's, parties involved agreed to call a truce and changed the name of their town to Harmony as a symbolic gesture of that decision.

Unfortunately, the harmony did not last and the town eventually died out almost completely. There were a few swells in population with the largest occurring in the 1970s by craftsman who had "found" the little town and wanted to create a place that would foster artistry and simple living.

Today Harmony sits all but unoccupied with a small population that sees a handful of tourists and a slew of photographers and engaged couples seeking for a unique photo op.

I was reminded of this place this morning as I read Psalm 133 as part of my morning quiet time. I have heard some of these beautiful verses before but I don't remember ever reading them in context and getting the full picture of what harmony looks like.

"How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony. For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron's head that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. 
Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion, and there the LORD has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting." 
- Psalm 133:1-3 (NLT)

The dictionary defines harmony as: agreement or accord, a consistent, orderly or pleasing arrangements of parts, congruity.

The biblical concept of harmony goes back to creation and the Garden of Eden. Upon reading the early chapters of Genesis, we can see that God created the world and humanity to live together in harmony.

Harmony is wonderful and pleasant.

One of the immediate effects of the Original Sin of Eve and Adam eating from the forbidden tree was disharmony, disagreement and discord.

And this continued to the murder of Abel by his brother Cain and throughout the remainder of the Bible, and the struggle for harmony remains to this day.

Being in a room that is filled with disharmony is literally palpable. The air becomes charged with it. You don't have to know the cause to know that it is present in the room. I would not describe that sensation as pleasant or wonderful.

It is awkward and feels...well, wrong because it's not how God designed for us to live. And that's because...

Harmony is precious.

I would argue that harmony is in short supply these days. Everyone seems to have a cause, a stance, a platform or an agenda. People are not afraid to lay waste to others via social media or even face to face.

Things that are in short supply become very rare and therefore, very precious -- much like the anointing oil described in this passage.

And that oil was likely very costly and highly-valued.

After all, we read constantly in the Old Testament that God required the very best to be used for his Temple and in worship.

In fact in Exodus 30:28-33, God gives Moses a recipe for this sacred oil and warns that it should only be used in specific uses and in fact, unauthorized use of it would result in being cut off from God and His people.

I think it's safe to say that God took this process of anointing seriously. It was not a merely symbolic act. And because of this, I see that God takes harmony seriously too. He says that harmony is as precious to Him as that sacred oil and that....

Harmony should completely saturate us.

We should be so full of harmony that it literally saturates our lives from top to bottom. What a beautiful image the psalmist gives us of that saturation in this passage.

"...harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron's head that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe." (v. 2)

While I have never personally seen someone anointed with oil to this extent (we tend to dab a bit on the forehead in church services these days), I know a little about how oil gets into every nook and cranny when it's poured out.

I have unloaded groceries only to find that the cooking oil had spilled out and coated everything in the bag. It had saturated every label and groove of each and every item with which it has come into contact.

I searched and was not able to find an estimation of how much oil you would need to pour out upon a person's head in order for it to run down a person's face and into the very bottom hem of a their clothing. But I would imagine it would be quite a bit. Maybe even several gallons.

The person who was anointed would literally spend hours either letting the oil soak in and/or trying to wash it out of clothing and body parts.

That's a lot of oil.

The sheer quantity of oil (an over-abundance one could argue) not only consecrated the owner, but also meant whatever he or she touched would then also become holy.

"You shall consecrate them so they will be most holy, and whatever touches them will be holy." (Ex 30:29)

A modern day picture would be of pouring out so much lotion that you have to share it with someone else because you literally cannot absorb it all into your own skin.

But it's not just about those we come into direct contact with.

Harmony can refresh even those lives whom we don't directly come into contact.

Do you believe that you can live a life so saturated with harmony that it rubs off on other people? And maybe even people you don't know?

In verse 3 of this psalm, it talks about the concept of harmony having indirect affects:

"Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion, and there the LORD has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting." (v. 3)

As I was reading about this passage, many commentators pointed out that due to distance, it would not have been feasible for the dew from the moisture-rich Mount Hermon to directly fall upon the mountains of the dry and dusty mountains of Zion. However, most agree that the dew would have collected and formed streams and tributaries that would have flowed down and eventually affected Mount Hermon.

I believe this shows us a wonderful picture of the distance harmony can overcome. I also believe it to be a sacred mandate for those who profess to follow Christ. We should always seek to operate out of a place of harmony.

Because it's in this place of harmony where God has "pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting."

And that's precisely where I want to be.