justice

IMG_2445It is impossible to read the Bible and not see that justice is a theme from start to finish. It is even in the birth of Jesus. Was it fair his parents had to travel? Was it fair that he was born in a barn? Was it fair Herod wanted the baby dead, so he had all the male children under the age of two in Bethlehem killed?

In Luke 1, we find an often unnoticed piece of scripture referred to as Mary’s song. Even in the midst of a sudden pregnancy, dealing with the real fear of being an outcast and knowing that Joseph would not reasonably be allowed to marry her now…Mary sings of God’s justice:

His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. [Luke 1:50-53]

If we perceive ourselves as believers, we cannot ignore the things God and his people in the Bible cared about. God created an entire year to forgive debts of each other. God freed slaves. The prophets continually pointed God’s people down paths of fighting against injustice. And the ultimate action…sent his son in the form of a baby to grow up and die on a cross so that we could be freed from the bondage of sin. As believers we have the gift of grace, and as believers we have the opportunity to fight for the things that will work to set things right.

What would happen if we stopped adamantly arguing about whether it is Christian to cuss, and started fighting for the things that God wants us to actually fight for…would we discover we are stronger as a whole community? Would we be stronger as a body of believers? Would we be better at making God’s Kingdom look like something everyone wants to be a part of?

It turns my stomach the litany of things that believers choose to fight with each other about. I could take up paragraphs upon paragraphs of examples, and honestly, that makes me sick, too.

If we stopped fighting among believers, would we actually make those that have turned from God and embraced a world of atheism reconsider the truth and love of God?

If we stopped arguing about petty things, and focused on core salvation issues…would we be seen as a community that would be a reflection of God’s acceptance?

We can be strong together. But we have to choose it. We have to stop judging and tearing each other down as believers. This behavior isn’t new. It happened all of the time in the communities Paul was traveling to in the New Testament. He had to write whole letters to correct behavior, so that the community would be seen as an extension and good example of God’s love.

Who is writing us letters? Who is holding us accountable? Where are the prophets to call us out on the things we are doing to distract people from the goodness and truth of God? Where are the people with a message of reconciliation? Where are those that bring hope instead of destruction? Where are those that fight against injustice in our world?

We can be stronger together fighting for justice…for the things that break God’s heart, but will we claim the courage to choose it?

peace

I struggle with peace. I think it is because I crave it so much.

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A cross cut out of a bullet from the wars in Liberia, West Africa.

Everywhere I look and every situation that blocks my path is conflict, selfishness, gossiping, people hurting people, and then expanding into countries fighting countries and the injustices around the world. My heart breaks for those struggling with thoughts so plagued with being alone that their mind convinces them they should end their life in this world. There is so much pain in this world.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is just what comes up every year at Christmas. This is not a guilt complex I get once a year. This is what I think about, and the things I have to yell at to be quiet so I can fall asleep at night. Things are happening to people I love that shreds the fabric of my soul.

I don’t just say I am passionate about orphan ministry in our world. I know the names of orphans in our world. They are real to me. They have personalities and characteristics…they like to make me laugh and trust me with their words. But it is not them I worry about, because I know they know we love them and they are not alone. My mind drifts to orphans in all countries who have no family to guide them, or worse…abandoned by family because they think that is the best way for them to survive. No child should ever face those issues. Where is their peace?

I have held children with discolored hair due to malnutrition. It is impossible to walk away from those moments unchanged…doing your best to not punch someone in the throat with the anger that bubbles up. There is plenty of food in our world to sustain our population, and we have children and whole families going hungry. Where is the peace in hunger?

I get nauseous when I think about the young girls that are sold into sex-trafficking. Doesn’t anyone realize that if the industry demanding those girls ended…they would no longer be sold? Is it really that hard to keep it in your pants, so these girls would never know that pain and could stay with their families? It seems so simple, yet in a world plagued and suffering under the temptations and realities of sin…this is our world and where is the peace?

Peace on earth is unrealistic until the day all evil is wiped out. Anyone else ready for that day?

Jesus says in Matthew 10:34, ‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.’ He knew that belief in him would cause division, and he knew it would come at a price. He was more aware than anyone at the evil in this world as he hung on a cross, put there by the religious people of that time.

But he also knew what belief in his father’s Kingdom meant…

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” [Revelation 21:3-5]

Jesus himself knew the struggle we would have, so he points us toward the coming Kingdom. He says a day will come that this will all be cleaned up, and while I am gone you can do something about it. Hear that, because we are not meant to sit on our asses and do nothing until that day comes.

I see peace in beautiful sunsets, mountains, oceans and lakes…because I see a reflection of the beauty of God. The same reflection we are supposed to be as believers.

I see peace in the laughter of orphans.

I see peace in the smile of a child holding a bottle of juice as though it is liquid gold.

I see peace in a community that is committed to fighting together for injustice…setting aside their differences and arguments to fight side-by-side for God’s Kingdom.

I see peace in messages from International Justice Mission when they have rescued more girls out of brothels.

I sense peace in the quiet moments God knows I need to rest…even when it is forced rest.

But I will never be at peace in this world. No one will. It’s impossible. There is too much war, suffering and indifference at both to bring peace. God is the only one who will bring real peace. But there are so few in the world who are willing to stand for change…real change. God-directed, Kingdom-focused change that will transform this world. I ache for the peace of that transformation. We all should, because too much is not right in this world…which is why each of us needs to figure out where God has called us individually and as a community to make things right where it has gone so very wrong. Let us be agents fighting for peace, so that we are seen as a reflection of the one we serve.

reasons

IMG_4520It’s too expensive.

It takes too long to get there.

You have to use translators.

The money would be better spent on helping orphans than sending you to travel there for a week.

You name it, I’ve heard it regarding the reasons NOT to travel to Russia, and spend time with our kids over the last 10 years. And yes, it’s been that long, insane…I know.

But what happens when the discernment of calling, self-examination through prayer and the need of the kids to have a physical presence far outweigh the price tag?

You cannot put a price on relationship.

You cannot put a price on encouragement.

You cannot put a price on a hug.

You cannot put a price on giving a child hope because someone is supporting them and choosing to believe in their future.

You cannot put a price on family.

The orphans in Russia are put into a category that places a stigma on them as worthless and inferior to all other Russians. Simply because their parents either got in trouble with the law, abandoned them or died. They are told that they deserve to be in that orphanage by their culture…because no one wanted them.

They are considered broken.

It’s not fair, and it ignites God’s sense of justice in me.

It puts innocent kids in situations they are not equipped to navigate. It creates a mistrust of everything and everyone in each of those kids. It makes them feel alone, and unloved. How can anyone expect them to trust a loving God they cannot see when each person around them has broken their concept of love and trust?

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That it not God’s heart for them…and it is wrong, very wrong.

I have had the privilege of a front row seat for the change in the kids as they grow closer to their American friends. I’ve grown those relationships myself with two incredible gentlemen. I’ve experienced the change in them as they are poured into by someone who genuinely cares for them and wants nothing in return. I’ve seen students push themselves harder in school while encouraged by the love of another. I’ve seen them develop a sense of family with someone who is thousands of miles away.

I’ve seen God ignite a passion for his children in so many people that choose to make a difference in the lives of some phenomenal kids.

Mission is about God’s heart for the world. It is about righting the wrongs of this world, and believing that each of the wrongs that get righted moves us closer to God’s Kingdom.

I passionately believe God has called each one of us to a specific purpose, and within that purpose we find ourselves as the best we can humanly be in his image.

Some God has called to their neighbors. Some God is calling to the urban core. Others God calls to disaster areas. And yet others are called to the crazy world of global mission. We don’t choose our calling…but we get to choose to live it.

Many times over the last 10 years I have found myself examining my heart for the orphans of Russia. It is expensive. It is far away. The language is hard. It is a completely back-ass-ward country.

Yet every time I return to God and ask, ‘Still?’ the answer is consistently a resounding ‘Yes!’ with an aside of ‘Please stop asking!’

I’ve learned over time  it’s not worth it to argue with God…therefore I choose to live in my calling, and choose to love and support kids that are stronger because of God’s love  flowing through his people.

*If you feel pulled to help me live in my calling, consider checking out my photography at sojourner4jesusphotography.com. I am currently fundraising for the next opportunity to serve God in Russia this November.*

injustice

I will never forget how God started pointing me to his scriptures on ‘justice.’ I printed off every scripture that had the word ‘justice’ in it and started going through them one-by-one. Granted it only lasted about 3 months…but God started me on a journey with it and marked me with Isaiah 58.

If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday. [Isaiah 58:9-10]

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I am thankful every day for this journey of moving closer to God’s heart. I am even more thankful for the moments he has opened my eyes to the injustice that makes him angry, too.

It is evil.

It is wrong.

It is painful.

It makes me livid.

It makes me angry.

It is uncomfortable.

It is heart-wrenching.

I don’t want to live blind to the injustice in the world, and your comfort shouldn’t convince you that that your eyes should remain shrouded.

Choose to fight with God.

Choose to fight for fairness.

Choose to educate yourself, and be in relationships with those that suffer injustice.

God does not equal earthly security, but he does equal eternal security. Don’t allow your comfort to fool you otherwise.

Injustice makes me scream out like Habakkuk in Habakkuk 1:2-4.

But God answers…’Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.’ [Habbakkuk 1:5]

The more you look at the scriptures the more you see, in the end, God restores, renews and rebuilds.

Now that is something to put your hope in…God taking wrongs and making them right.