A Call to be a Voice for the Voiceless

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a political post but instead focuses on the obligation and morals Christians have to refugees and speaking out against wrongdoings.

Friday January 27, 2017 was a sad day. It was a day of remembrance for the Holocaust and the day an Executive Order was signed barring Muslim refugees from seven countries from entering the United States. A link to the full text of the order can be found at the bottom of this post.

On my trip to Israel earlier this month, I had the privilege of visiting Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center and hearing a Holocaust survivor speak. My entire group was asked to make a promise – a promise that we would not stand by silently when we saw people being targeted. Many of us cried over various exhibitions and I clearly remember the one that triggered my tears. It was the cartoon pictured below depicting when we turned away an entire boat of Jewish refugees. It broke my heart because we’re still doing this today and as of Friday, we are discriminating through presidential means and hiding it behind a false sense of security.

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I agree that we don’t want radical Islamic terrorists in our country but discriminating against a religious group is not the answer. The bible clearly tells us how we should treat foreigners and refugees. I have been a foreigner in a foreign land and it’s not easy. I was there for work and I loved it but it’s not easy. It’s a different language (though I was spoiled because so many people speak English) and a different culture with different food and protocols. It’s overwhelming.

Many refugees don’t want to be here. They want to be home but that’s not an option. If their homeland was safe do you think they’d risk everything by getting onto a little rubber dinghy, overflowing with people in the hope that they survive and make it to Europe?

We have an Executive Order banning people from entering and we’re building a wall to keep Mexicans out. We are allowing fear to define our policies and to normalize discrimination but the Bible says we are to welcome the foreigner.

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself.” – Leviticus 20:33-34 (ESV)

The Bible tells us to tend to the needs of those around us and to remember that we are foreigners.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” – Matthew 25:35-36

In 1 Peter 2:11, Peter calls us “temporary residents and foreigners”. As Christians we cannot remain silent and watch this happen. We cannot wash our hands and turn a blind eye. We cannot be apathetic towards the plight of other human beings. We are all one and God wants us to take care of those who need it. Being a Christian holds us to a higher standard where we cannot allow the fear of someone else’s opinion to keep us quiet. We must be a voice for the voiceless.

One of the quotes at Vad Yashem that convicted me was from a Protestant pastor, named Martin Niemoller, who said:

“First they came for the Socialists and I did not speak out – Because I was not

a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out – Because I

was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a

Jew.

Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”

I hope I am wrong in what I see but this Executive Order sets a dangerous precedent and in fact makes me think history may be repeating itself. The Executive Order has immediately banned all refugees from Syria and six other countries. While this news is upsetting and disheartening please remember that our hope comes not from political leaders but from Jesus Christ and the gift of the cross.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on Christian responsibilities to refugees and what you think of this. We also ask that you pray for our country and our leadership.

For those who are interested in reading the entire executive order, I found the text here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-muslim-refugee-ban-full-text-of-executive-order-immigration-a7550741.html

Thinking Ahead

“The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” ~ Proverbs 21:5 NIV

A couple of days ago, my sister and I were talking through what it is like to not prepare ahead. We have been arguing over a lot of house chores, who’s to clean, and when we should clean. It should seem like an easy fix, but our bad cleaning habits also point out to things we need to change in our own lives. We have noticed that the more we prolong cleaning, the more cleaning we have to do eventually. We had become very inconsistent in our work and just add more stress when it has to be done.

Moreover, my sister and I have struggled with procrastination and laziness in other areas of our lives such as school, projects, and church activities. While my sister is a lot more laid back about it, I easily get stressed when I don’t get those things done. So, after a conversation I had with her, we realized that we needed to be more consistent in our lives. We needed to think ahead. For example, it’s better to do the dishes every day so that we don’t have such large quantities of dishes in the future. In another example, we cannot put off our Bible reading until we can’t take it anymore and suddenly fall on our knees for the Lord to give us a sign. We should have been doing it regularly to begin with.

Another version of the same verse above says this, “Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run; hurry and scurry puts you further behind” (MSG). Not saying that in life it’s always better to plan ahead, but it does help. Just think…I know that I won’t get anything done that I want to get done if I put on Netflix after I come home from work. I know I will watch it until bedtime. So what must I do? Not-put-on-Netflix…duh. But if I plan ahead and remember what happens when I start Netflix, potentially—hopefully—I can start on the work that I know must get done. And let me tell you that when I do that, I just feel good.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a risk to doing this. Thinking too much of the future can lead to worry, stress, anxiety, depression. We have to be careful when it comes to idols or something possessive in our minds. Jesus also says in Matthew 6:34 to not worry so much, especially for what’s to come. But there is a difference between worry and thinking ahead. Worrying does not let room for what God could do in our lives. We let our own self be in charge of our life which is a huge mistake. Thinking ahead is being wise. We are checking ourselves with the help of God. The verse above is in Proverbs and Proverbs is the book of wisdom so…there’s the proof needed.

When we think thoroughly about what’s to come based on a decision we need to make at the moment, maybe the outcome will result with little to no consequence. God created us with a brain—a very complicated and complex one—so that we can think twice about our decisions. But as humans, sometimes we need to go through the learning process by making mistakes and having God redirect us. Planning ahead can only be lead by the Lord, not by our own. However, when we know that there must be a change in our habits, we must act. As a result, my sister and I have created plans to work on cleaning, on being consistent with it, and by using that to help us with other habits in our lives.

Sailing Through the Storm

I’ve shared a lot about the storms I personally experienced during 2016 and the challenges I dealt with. When I was in Israel, a friend of mine was assigned to discuss the scripture where Jesus calms the storm and it is something I really want to share.

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Sea of Galilee

“As they sailed across, Jesus settled down for a nap. But soon a fierce storm came down on the lake. The boat was filling with water, and they were in real danger.” – Luke 8:23

Have you ever felt like God wasn’t there during your storm? Maybe you felt like He was taking a nap during some of you most difficult times. Jesus is sleeping through this fierce storm and the boat is filling with water. The disciples were undoubtedly terrified that they would drown. They ran down and woke Jesus up. Maybe you can relate to this. I never felt like Jesus was sleeping but I surely wanted to know the timeline.

“When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and the raging waves. Suddenly the storm stopped and all was calm. Then he asked them, ‘Where is your faith?’” – Luke 8:24b-25

I expected Jesus to calm the storm but I didn’t expect Him to turn back to His disciples and question their faith but He does. Why? Jesus is a teacher. He shows His disciples that He can calm the storm but then He wants to know why they couldn’t. The point my friend made, which wowed me into silence was that Jesus brought them into the storm. He knew a storm was coming and suggested they go for a sail! He was testing them but He also wanted to be with them when it happened because He knew they weren’t ready to face it without His physical presence.

Storms happen for different reasons; some are a consequence of sinful living but others may occur because God is refining us. I used to take life for granted. I had some challenging times but never anything that shook me to my core like my mother’s stroke and my youngest brother’s suicide. Nothing really prepares you for those moments but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was able to weather those storms because of my faith.

I know that God was preparing me for the challenges and gave me the foundation in 2015 to plant my roots deep into His Word and His love. I’m not sure what I would’ve been like without that foundation. The point is that storms are guaranteed. They will happen and we don’t have control over that. We do, however, have control over how we respond. We can be prepared through our daily habits of studying His Word and growing in faith, knowing that no matter how bad things seem they are temporary.

If you’re in a season of blessings, I suggest that you strengthen or develop your daily time with God because a season of trials will be coming. If you’re experiencing a season of trials, take heart and arm yourself with His Word. Let us know if we can pray for you. ❤

Be Rooted

I love to talk. I like words and have always been a chatterer but sometimes God calls us to be silent. In an attempt to be healthier, my faithful hound and I have been walking. She’s a bit of a couch potato (see picture). I had no music or phone, so I walked in silence and it was surprisingly awesome!

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Jackie catching up on her rest

I say silence but it was anything but. I could hear the leaves rustling, my shoes crunching down on dead leaves, and birds. There’s nothing wrong with background noise but when was the last time you were silence for a prolonged period of time? It’s as if we’ve become afraid of the silence and the thoughts we will find lurking there.

I found myself basking in His work because everything I saw was His creation. How can people not believe when I see His handiwork all around us? Why do people think science and faith are enemies? It was an amazing moment but the thing I found myself reflecting on the most were all the trees around me.

I don’t know why but I love trees and think they are just beautiful. I love the different colors of their leaves and the different shapes and their roots! Such gorgeous roots. I saw several uprooted trees, several of which had died, but a few who had managed to survive after they’d gotten their roots back in the ground and I began to make comparisons.

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I went to Matthew 13:1-23 where Jesus gives the parable of the farmer scattering seeds. Some seeds fell on a footpath and were eaten by birds; others fell on shallow soil, sprouted but quickly died because they didn’t have deep roots. Other seeds fell in thorns and were killed off and others fell on good ground and produced a large crop. I want to the seed that fell on good ground and produced a large crop. I want my roots to take hold so that no storm can uproot me but if it does I pray that my roots go down even deeper.

 

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This tree had been partially uprooted but managed to survive!

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:7-8

Friend, I pray that your roots are deep in the Lord and that you take care to protect them and help them grow even deeper through prayer, studying His Word, fellowship and serving. Times are tough but we can find comfort in the fact that our God is the same today as He was yesterday and will be tomorrow. He is our calm in the storm.

Please let us know how we can be praying and supporting you! As always, we love hearing from y’all. ❤

 

Living Simply Simple

When I came back from living in South Korea, I did some major and thorough cleaning. While in Korea, I didn’t have a lot of things and learned to get by with very little. I didn’t have a lot of clothes or shoes. I didn’t spend a lot on house decorations, I made them. Little things like that made me realize that I didn’t need three coffee mugs just for me or four different winter jackets. So I decluttered my closet, threw away a lot of old stuff, and got rid of things that I had an excess of. I got rid of so much and after some time, I realized what a stress-free feeling it was to have less. I didn’t need all the things I had. I had plenty.

Simplicity is not only portrayed in the amount of things we have or the money we spend. It’s a lifestyle. For example, I can picture Jesus and his disciples living the simplest life possible. Although the Bible does mention that one disciple was a tax collector, others were fishermen, etc., there is no doubt that they did not have an excessive amount of money to afford hotels during their travels or nice looking clothes. Luke 9:58 portrays a picture of what the cost in choosing to follow Jesus. Jesus said, ”’Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head”’ (NIV). Our choice in following God should be shown in the way we live. And sometimes that means we might not always be living the comfortable life.

Luke 9:58 also confirms that Jesus lived the simple life. Although a king and leader in our eyes, he lived as a commoner who probably walked miles and miles to spread the Word and not even have a plan of where to sleep and what to eat. That is faith! I can understand that living the comfortable life is a safe and secure choice. I work full time and have money to pay for food and gas for my car. It’s nice to know what I will eat tomorrow. But for Jesus, His life of simplicity was solely based on His dependence for God.

There are times when I get frustrated with myself and society in our way of living. After traveling the world a bit, the US by far—in my eyes—is overly wealthy and wasteful. At the same time, the life people can have in the US is a blessing. People have escaped lives of suffering and poverty to find a life full of opportunity and hope. Now that is harder to see for someone who has been living in it their whole lives. In my case, I know I will not benefit living a life of luxury and wealth. I wouldn’t need God then because I’d have everything I need. But what I need the most I would not realize I need until I lose all that I have now. In other words, if I don’t have luxury and wealth, I find myself looking to God for support and survival.

Living the simple life pushes us to live a dependent life. We don’t need to depend on money, a company, or a car. We have God. And when we realize that God is the only thing we need, money, a career, or a car have little to no importance. Our dependence on God becomes independence from a worldly lifestyle.

Doing Life Together

Life isn’t meant to be done alone. We need others. Imagine water. A drop of water doesn’t do much, does it? A few together make a mess. A few more make a puddle. Millions and billions make a river but trillions make an ocean. A few drops of water don’t really change much but combined, water can be a forceful power that appears as a roaring river carving through mountains and changing the land.

Alone we are a drop of water. We can impact our family but without a source of water to replenish us, we can quickly fade away. Together with other believers, we can change ourselves, our family tree, our communities, our states, our countries and the world. But this can only happen if we unite and focus on our similarities instead of bickering over our differences.

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Imagine a single drop of water on the sidewalk on a hot summer day. Under the intensity of the sun, it dries up quickly. The same can be said of us under the heat of trials. Now imagine the ocean on a hot summer day. I haven’t seen the ocean evaporate and can recall the cool temperatures when I go out further.

Together we are stronger. We lift each other up and help through the storms of life. We protect and replenish each other. God designed us for fellowship. He knew we couldn’t do life alone. He knew that one person can burn out or fall and so He designed us to have another person there to offer a helping hand when we don’t have the strength to pick ourselves us.

I can’t tell you how much my Christian family has replenished me during 2016. I can’t tell you how hard 2016 was and how much loss and suffering I experienced. I can’t tell you that I understand why God’s plan unfolded the way it did but I can tell you that He blessed me with a family of believers who rallied around me and my family when we needed it. I can tell you that this community and beyond lifted my spirits and gave me hope when I felt hopeless. I can tell you that I felt joy knowing how many people across the world prayed with us when we were hurting.

That is what the body is meant to do. It is meant to be shared with others. I have needed friends to speak truth into me when I am struggling or blatantly ignoring God’s direction.   I have needed them to encourage me but I have also needed to speak truth into them and to lift them up.

I went to the Dead Sea and it was beautiful but sad. Do you know why the Dead Sea is dead? It only receives water; it never gives. The same happens to us individually and us as the church. We need to give to remain alive spiritually.

I hope you have a good, godly community who can speak truth into you and whom you can speak truth into. Comment below and let us know what you’re looking for in a community. As always, we love hearing from you. ❤