Wisdom From Above

wisdom

Wisdom comes from God. If it didn’t our wisdom would come from what we believe to be right in our own eyes. But wisdom from above produces good works, is gentle, patient, and honest. James 3:13 says, “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in meekness of wisdom.”

The opposite of this is jealousy, selfishness, and dishonesty. James continues, “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic” (James 3:14, 15). James says that these earthly passions lead to disorder and every vile practice.

Instead, James calls his listeners to seek Godly wisdom. James tells them that a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. This is the kind of wisdom that we all need to seek.

There is so much discord in churches all over the world because of jealousy, selfishness, and dishonesty. If there is ongoing inner turmoil, rest assured that decisions are not being guided by Godly wisdom. Peace and righteousness are true markers of wisdom from above.

Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

The Testing of Your Faith

wisdom

As we focus on the theme of wisdom this year, it’s appropriate to talk about struggles in the context of wisdom. Oftentimes, in the middle of our deepest struggles, wisdom is what carries us through. Wisdom allows us to see beyond the tragedy so that hope can emerge and come into deeper focus. Wisdom helps us make guided decisions so that we don’t remain in a permanent rut.

Without wisdom, we would never understand that trials can actually deepen our faith. They have the ability to refine us and make us stronger. James says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him (James 1:2-4).

Most of us don’t have the first instinct to be joyful when trials hit. It is not our fist response. Our sight gets clouded by the agony of the pain. We often are dazed, shocked, and have to focus on just breathing. But it’s wisdom that helps us see the big picture. Wisdom tells us that there is a loving God who validates our suffering. Wisdom tells us that we can put one foot in front of the other and that each step is another movement forward.

But we also need to ask in faith. James says, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” In all of our trials, we need to ask for more wisdom. Our faith will be tested. Our faith is tested. Let’s ask for wisdom as it is tested.

Photo by Preslie Hirsch on Unsplash

Resurrection of the Dead

empty tomb

To be honest, I feared death as a kid. I remember, at a young age, having my imagination go wild. What if I died? What if a parent or sibling died? What happens to them? Are they gone forever? Will we ever see them again? It’s natural for us to think of these kinds of questions. I no longer have a fear of death. Death is something that brings life. It’s spring right now. The grass is gorgeous! Flowers are blooming. Trees are in blossom. Life is emerging from death.

Paul says, “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies” (1 Corinthians 15:36). He was talking about Christ’s resurrection. There were people who denied the resurrection of the dead. The Sadducees were a sect of the Jews who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Paul is clear, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor. 15:13-14). Earlier Paul told the Corinthians that he decided to know nothing while he was with them except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Without death there cannot be life. The seeds that are sown are dead and, when they take root, are raised up with life. Paul rightly says that we are resurrected with Christ. At our baptism there is a death to our old self. We crucify our old selves with Christ and are raised up a new person. We share in his resurrection! The good news didn’t stop with Christ being raised from the dead. That was just the beginning! The good news is that we are raised with Christ-that he is our salvation and we will live for eternity. Christ is our hope. The empty tomb is the heart of the gospel. There is so much to celebrate as we remember the empty tomb!

Photo by Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash

A Servant of Justice

servant songs

I’m continually blown away at the volume of messages I get from people crying out that their church covered up abuse. It never ceases to amaze me what lengths these “leaders” go to to keep the victims silenced. I’ve had several messages this week from people who showed me the evidence–women who were hospitalized from husbands beating them and others where churches had private meetings about how reporting child rape to authorities is a “liability” to the church, so they decide to keep it a secret from their church and not report to police. How people can paint Jesus as someone who is OK with this is a leap that would confound even the devil. No amount of twisting of scriptures can account for this poor theology.

We make mock God’s justice if we blend oppressors and the oppressed together. If we silence the cries of the abused and embrace the abuser, “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26, 27).

The servant songs in Isaiah do not depict a helpless Savior who rolls over and plays nice with oppressors. Instead, in Isaiah 42:1-4 we find a warrior savior who is destined to bring forth swift justice for the poor and oppressed:

Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice on the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice; or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.

Throughout Jesus’ life, the oppressed flocked to him and the oppressors hated him. This is consistent with the servant songs in Isaiah, with God’s foundation of righteousness and justice in Psalm 89:14, and with Jesus’ mission to proclaim good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to the captives, recovering sight to the blind, set at liberty those who are oppressed, and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18, 19). Jesus’ compassion was reserved for the oppressed, not the oppressors. Matthew 9:36 says, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

This was not a figure of speech. The people who cried out to Jesus really were harassed, and this drove his compassion. The religious leaders were relentless in their attacks. They wanted to silence the oppressed. They abandoned the poor. They were angry when Jesus healed people. Think about that for a moment. Imagine desperate people who, either they or their children had suffered for years, walking out of a hospital healed. Then imagine what it would take for people to become angry enough to march into the hospital and scold the doctors for healing them.

Jesus was a servant of justice. He brings forth justice because this is what love does. Love does not turn a blind eye to oppression and injustices. Love requires us to step in and protect. It requires us to call people to account who use force, coercion, and deception to get what they want. Yes, Jesus was a servant of justice. And this is good news to people who are desperate for help.

Photo by Katherine Hanlon on Unsplash

I Am the One Who Helps You

desperate

I recently watched the 2013 Netflix documentary on trafficking called “Tricked.” It follows both former trafficking victims and current pimps who go on camera to talk about the industry. Human trafficking is a multi billion dollar industry that has increased exponentially in recent years. Because of the threats to prostitutes and the dehumanization of the victims, it’s virtually impossible to catch the pimps and incarcerate them. Police departments are completely overwhelmed and, because they are losing ground, governments are cutting money from the departments.

One District Attorney’s office said, “We’ve cut $1 million per year for three years. So they’re asking us to do more with less and with fewer people. At some point I have to weigh, can we continue to handle all these cases at the normal level? When somebody brings me four or five times the number of cases, I may not have the staff to handle all those cases.”

One of the detectives in the documentary said that pimps used to scout for women and young girls who came from broken homes or who had a past of abuse. With the advancement of technology, they said that everyone is a target, no matter how stable their home life is. He said that this is why trafficking has gotten uncontrollable so quickly. Trafficking is called “modern slavery” for a reason. Nobody goes into this “work” because they want to.

But it’s not just trafficking that has people distraught. There is a crisis at our southern border. Thousands of people every day are risking their lives to desperately cross into the US because they are running from dangerous gangs. There is a global crisis of oppression. The questions are “How did we get here?” and “What do we do about it?”

Many people will be packed into church buildings across the world on Easter Sunday to celebrate the risen Christ. I know there is a real temptation to use Easter as “outreach” in order to grow the church and reach those visitors. But maybe a better way is to talk about the desperation in the world and how Jesus came to redeem it. There is so much oppression, poverty, and sickness. The world needs redeemed from it. People need a refuge–a safe fortress. Isaiah 41:14 says, “Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I am the one who helps you, declares the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.”

A few verses later says, “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them.” God feeds and waters the poor. He is a fortress and a refuge for the oppressed and weary. There is hope in the resurrection. We need to share in this hope. We need to let people know that only in Christ can there be restoration and redemption from the pain and suffering of this life. And Christians need to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the people who are suffering to remind them that God is the one who helps us.

Our Visit to Haiti and More Ways to Give

Hope House

I just returned from visiting my sister Stephanie and her husband Roni in Haiti. I took my oldest daughter along and she got to experience Haiti for the first time at just 8 years old. It was my first time to visit the COTP campus where Steph and Roni live. Haiti is a gorgeous, mountainous country filled with a very rich history and lots of poverty.

Our congregation sponsors the Bhullars and the important work they do there. Visiting Haiti again is a reminder of how great the need is for people to give. Without the generosity of others, the Bhullars and other missionaries could not do the work they are doing there. As Christians, we are called to give and to go. We give of our time and money and we go to where our neighbors need help. This was the heart of Jesus’ mission and it has always been the mission of the early church.

The early Christians “were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:45 ESV). When there was a need, they selflessly and happily sold possessions and gave the proceeds to feed the poor and care for the oppressed. Over and over again Christians gave of their time and money. And they did so cheerfully. But they didn’t just give, they also went.

The first action word of the Great Commission is go. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations. . .(Matthew 28:19). Steph and Roni went. We don’t have to go overseas to bless people. We can go across the street to our neighbors. But go we must. I could have made up a thousand excuses not to go to Haiti this year. 4 weeks ago there were riots and the US issued a travel ban. It was dangerous to travel and Americans were being evacuated. It’s expensive to go overseas. I was away from my family for a week. It was inconvenient to go. But we are commanded to go. The Bhullars were blessed. We were blessed. My daughter was discipled and is already asking how she can raise more money to give to the good people of Haiti.

Churches that do not give generously stagnate. We are a small church but we can do great things through Christ. In an effort to increase our ability to give and go, we created an online giving page. We’re proud to say that 100% of the money from the online portion will be used to help people in need. Our congregation already gives almost $10,000 a year just to support missions and local benevolence. For a church our size, that’s almost unheard of. But we want to give even more because we want to go more. You don’t have to be a member of our congregation to give. The Lord’s church networked in the first century. And we want to also.

Help us spread the word. We long for people to give regularly and joyfully! We want to increase the amount we give each year to help the poor, oppressed, so we need your help. Please go to our online giving page and partner with us in giving to help the poor and oppressed. And help us spread the word! And join us on mission trips. Even if you cannot physically go on a mission trip, follow our page and get updates. We need your help to give and go!

The cover image is of the Hope House, where Steph and Roni currently care for six orphans.

Roni’s Run for the Hope House

Hope House

As you all know, Steph and Roni Bhullar have been in Haiti since 2015 working very hard at the Hope House. Our congregation is one of their supporting churches. One of the things that I’ve always lamented is that missionaries have it much harder than us ministers in the US. They not only have to learn a new language and live in extremely impoverished areas that take a severe emotional toll, they also have to raise their own financial support. Many missionaries only get a short furlough back in the States once per year. That time is supposed to be used for rest and visiting with friends and family. However, most missionaries have to use much of that time raising more financial support, which takes away from family and rest time.

Roni has taken a creative approach to raising funds for the Hope House by running an annual 26.2 mile race. This race is extremely dangerous and taxing on the body. Here’s what Roni has to say about the race: “That’s 26.2 miles without a cheering crowd, no water stations and none of the typical support found in an organized race. Why would I do such a thing? A guaranteed first place finish and for seven little reasons well worth the effort.”

Those seven little reasons are the children Steph and Roni care for in the Hope House. Roni is running the race on Saturday. Please pass this on to as many people as you can. Show your love and support by donating for Roni’s race. The Bhullars are doing an incredible ministry. Here is the link to Roni’s race where you can find more about the race and donate.

Be blessed!