As we remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today, I am reminded of his statement:
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Here's its original context, its origins, and what Dr. King would say to us today.
At the core of this statement, you can hear the prophetic voice. Let us remember that Dr. King also had another title—Reverend. He was a preacher.
In King's time, as in ours, many people looked at the injustices and simply ignored them or demeaned them. But for a person living in a country that treats them unjustly, these issues are not something that can be ignored. It’s only convenient to ignore injustices until those same injustices inconvenience you. King regularly pointed this out and mobilized people for action.
Dr. King said the famous, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" in his work from Birmingham Jail, where he was imprisoned for advocating for equal rights of African Americans.
The context should remind us that this phrase cannot be a platitude; it must be lived. It means so much because of who said it and from the context in which it was said.
And it is injustice that we see today—all over our planet. The racial and economic inequality King was fighting against still exists today. So let us not just remember, but act. We have made progress but we must keep moving forward.
Near the end of his life, King was working to bring equality by creating jobs. And yet, so much of the world still lacks jobs, because we haven’t completed the task. This is injustice.
We look around the world and we also see those who are oppressed—who lack spiritual and religious freedom, who lack knowledge of Jesus. This too is an injustice.
We look around our own country today and we still see racism. And this isn't only within our nation (against one another), but it also has to do with the worldview many people hold. Many people view those from other places as outsiders (or less than Americans). There is racism and xenophobia on the global stage. This is injustice.
We must stand up, lift up, and rise up—to fight these injustices, boldly proclaiming that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
The prophets resonate with Dr. King’s words, with lines like:
“Wash! Make yourselves clean! Remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes! Cease to do evil! Learn to do good! Seek justice! Rescue the oppressed! Defend the orphan! Plead for the widow!” (Isaiah 1:16 LEB).
“Thus says Yahweh, ‘Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been seized from the hand of the oppressor. And you must not oppress or treat violently the immigrant, the orphan, and the widow. And you must not shed innocent blood in this place’” (Jeremiah 22:3 LEB).
“Remove from me the noise of your songs, and I do not want to hear the melody of your harps! But let justice roll on like the water, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:23–24 LEB).
The Bible’s cry is justice, mercy, and love. There is no other way that aligns with God’s desire.
Much of our world's problems come out of fear. We fear acting against injustice, because of the possible ramifications. We fear those we do not understand. And fear causes us to do terrible things and to not take action when we should. We must fight fear.
Fear cannot dominate our worldview. If any of us are to call ourselves Christians, we must believe in justice for all. We must love without bounds. We must lead out of mercy. This is the Christian cry. Jesus once said:
“ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37–40 LEB).
Love means placing others before ourselves—to love God is to love others. The book of James puts it this way:
“If anyone thinks he is religious, although he does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:26–27 LEB).
Love is only truly practiced by those who can manage their own words—we must all work at this. Love also requires us to prioritize the needs of the widow, the orphan, the refugee, and the outsider. We must believe that is what is good for the entire world is also good for us, because it is.
But love does not mean simply loving those who are hurting—although that is certainly a major part of it. Jesus also once remarked:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘Hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven, because he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:43–44 LEB).
There is no us and them; we’re all simply humanity. God does not look on the world and smile upon one country over another. He loves the entire world equally. And we must do the same.
Love those you don’t understand. Love those on the other side of the aisle. Love those who protest. Love those who protest against you. Love in a way that forces you to self-examine. Love in a way that moves you out isolation and insulation. Love in a way that demands justice. Love with mercy. Simply put, truly love.
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Continuing with our "Living for Jesus This Christmas" series, here is a story of the importance of gratitude and faith this holiday season.
At this time of year, the stress levels for many are almost too much to bear. We struggle through the ups and downs of the season, as we navigate family, our budget, and our church life. It’s all too easy to become frustrated and angry, and then to lose sight of our priorities. The key to changing all this: thankfulness -- for Christ, salvation, and what we have been given.
During Christmas season, I often find myself up awake at night, wondering about all that is and all that could be. As I stare at the ceiling, I struggle with the thought that maybe I’m not living up to what God intends for me to be. And indeed, there are always areas I can improve, but much of this self-doubt is probably rooted in ungratefulness.
My wife Kalene's recent solution to some of these difficulties was to share with me a lovely song from the 1954 film, White Christmas:
“When I'm worried and I can't sleep / I count my blessings instead of sheep / And I fall asleep / Counting my blessings / When my bankroll is getting small / I think of when I had none at all / And I fall asleep / Counting my blessings / If you're worried and you can't sleep / Just count your blessings instead of sheep / And you'll fall asleep / Counting your blessings”
And isn’t this the truth? We all have the blessing of Jesus, who saves, as well as many other blessings. If only that were our focus instead!
Paul the Apostle understood this. Repeatedly, he opens his letters with words of thankfulness. For example, even when addressing the Corinthian church, who he is struggling to maintain a relationship with, he says:
“Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in all affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, thus through Christ our comfort overflows also” (2 Cor 1:3–5).
Here is Paul, in the midst of a struggle with the Corinthian church, and with some struggles of his own, showing a spirit of thankfulness. By counting his blessings, he finds a way to have joy even when things are hard.
When we really get down to it, there’s an obvious point that we all know, but that maybe we should take a second to remind ourselves of: This season is about Jesus, or at least it’s supposed to be. Breathe that in. Tell yourself that everyday. Remember what Jesus did for us, and be thankful for it. It will change everything.
And then, take a moment to remind yourself how the one who gave it all calls us to give it all for the betterment of our world.
When we give, our thought patterns change -- and our general attitude about life changes. We find ourselves realizing what God can do through our lives and then we find ourselves grateful for it.
Jesus can do so much through your life, and wants to do so much. Give over more of your life to him this year. Let him work through you in this season, to show love to others with a generous and grateful spirit. Work with Christ to transform lives and our world.
This article was previously published under the title, "Reclaim a Spirit of Gratitude this Christmas Season."
Continuing with our "Living for Jesus This Christmas" series, we have another post filled with hope for you this holiday season.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. For some this means absolute joy, for others it’s a more difficult time of year. I understand both sentiments—as I have had both throughout the years.
No matter where you are this time of year, or how you feel about it, I have a hope-filled message for you.
Right from Jesus’ birth, we see how God likes to surprise. He doesn’t choose the richest woman in the land to give birth to Jesus, but instead one of the impoverished. The angel Gabriel says to Mary:
“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you. … Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in the womb and will give birth to a son, and you will call his name Jesus. This one will be great, and he will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. … The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore also the one to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1:28–38 LEB).
Mary’s ultimate reply, after learning that she, a virgin, will conceive miraculously: “Behold, the Lord’s female slave! May it happen to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38 LEB).
Mary speaks truth. These are words each of us need to hear today: May we act according to God’s will, so attached to him that it resembles a slave following his or her master. May God’s will happen according to his word.
But these are not just contemplative words—they are words of gratitude and joy. Although Mary may be feeling perplexed, she is in wonderment. She sees that great and wonderful things are coming (Luke 1:29, 34). And even when we are perplexed, we should look to God in wonderment too—knowing that he will do great and mighty things.
Christmas is meant to remind us of the great and wonderful things coming our way. We are meant to celebrate the occasion with pure joy. We should contemplate both what God did by becoming flesh—forever marrying humanity to himself—but also how he chose to become flesh.
God could have chosen a rich young woman or a queen. He could have chosen to be born into wealth and power. But that’s not what God chose. God chose a humble and honorable woman. He chose someone from poverty, who had no power at all.
And in this act, and so many others in Jesus’ life, we see that this is really what the Christian journey is about: a walk with God, in humility, grace, and love.
Christmas reminds us of all this. But Christmas also reminds us of Mary’s words about Jesus:
“My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced greatly in God my Savior, because he has looked upon the humble state of his female slave, for behold, from now on all generations will consider me blessed, because the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for generation after generation to those who fear him. He has done a mighty deed with his arm; he has dispersed the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted the lowly. He has filled those who are hungry with good things, and those who are rich he has sent away empty-handed. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, just as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever” (Luke 1:46–56 LEB).
This is what God does. This is who God is. This is what God is about.
May you be filled with joy today. May the power of the living Christ transform you and work through you. May you realize who God really is, and act according to his ways—lifting up the lowly and feeding the hungry.
This article was previously published under the title, "A Song of Gratitude for Christmas Day: Joy No Matter What."
At this time of year, it can seem like a lot is asked of you. While much of the Christmas season in the U.S. is rooted in consumerism, there are some tangible (and profound) reasons why Christians give. By taking hold of these truths, we can honor God through our donating and gift giving.
At the start of our "Living for Jesus This Christmas" series, here are four reasons why Christians give.
Creation itself testifies to the giving Spirit of God. In the beginning, God creates (Genesis 1–2). The act of creation is rooted in love and compassion: When God sees that Adam may be lonely, he creates a companion in Eve (Genesis 2:18–25).
From the divine imagination, comes creation. And God looks at his creation and gives again. Everything good in our world is based in giving.
But after creation, humanity went astray and mucked it all up. This put us humans out of alignment with God; and it put us out of alignment with the intention of God's creation (Genesis 3).
God once again looks at his creation and decides on a solution; he decides to give. That solution is the gift of Jesus (God the Son). And that's what we celebrate at Christmas time: God becoming flesh in Jesus (Luke 1–2). In Jesus, we have salvation (John 1; 3:16).
In Jesus, we see the miraculous. But the way God comes in flesh should tell us something: Out of what seems to be ordinary, God will do the extraordinary. God chooses an ordinary Jewish family and the savior is born in an ordinary place, in impoverished circumstances. The miraculous comes through the unexpected.
God certainly provides via the completely miraculous: We see this when God provides for the Hebrew people while they're roaming in the wilderness (Exodus 16). But more often than not, God uses other people to bring about his provision. And that also seems pretty ordinary.
This is why Paul pleads with the Corinthian church to honor their obligation to help the impoverished church in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 9:1–15). He knows that God will use ordinary people to accomplish his work. Paul himself also depended on other people when he was imprisoned and mentions these types of moments often in his letters (e.g., Philemon 1; Philippians 5:25).
When people helped Paul, or those he advocated for (like the Jerusalem church), they themselves were changed. Paul emphasizes this:
"You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God" (2 Corinthians 9:11 NIV).
Generosity gives us an opportunity to honor God with what he has given us. It enriches our souls. Paul explains this another way earlier in this same passage:
"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:6–8 NIV).
We as Christians are expected to steward the resources we are given. If we give generously, God will give generously to us. That giving from God may not come in the ways our culture can measure, but it will come.
At the core of the Christian value is a value of giving. Let's give this Christmas season.
Right now it's highly likely that you're facing some problem or difficulty that seems impossible to overcome. I've been there. For that matter, I am there. But if there's anything I've learned about faith, it's that Jesus is in the business of hope. Here are four reflections on hope and why it's such a critical part of faith. Here's how hope can change your life, right now.
When the author of the biblical book Hebrews explained faith, he spoke of hope.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 ESV).
As Christians, we do not physically see Jesus. We also do not know when he will return to earth. But we believe (have faith) in him. We have a conviction about that which we cannot see.
Ask yourself: Has God called you to a purpose? Now ask yourself: Do you believe in Jesus' work in your life and the world? If your answer is "yes" to both of those things, then really it shouldn't be hard to take the next step: To hope in what Jesus will do in your life. Have hope that God will see through his purpose in your life.
You may not have faith in yourself, but you can have faith in Jesus working through you. Faith is hope. And it can have incredible power in our lives.
Hope is magical; or better put, it’s miraculous. It changes our perspective and it changes lives.
Consider for a moment one the great problems of our world: extreme poverty, the fact that there are millions of people around the world trying to survive on less than a $1.25 per day.
Now consider that the developing world is full of people with tenacity and strength who lack the resources to make their dreams reality. They need hope. They need opportunities. Those of us with resources can offer them hope. Something as simple as our purchasing and donating decisions can change lives.
When we give of our time, money, or resources, we have the opportunity to watch Jesus’ work in the world. That act of faith should give us hope.
Each of us have a chance to see God at work, to put our hope into action. And doing so can offer us hope in return.
The incredible thing about offering someone hope is that doing so also offers you hope. It makes you believe in what the person you’re helping is yet to see. It changes the way you feel about the state of that person’s life, and in doing so, causes you to think about what hope God has in store for you.
Having hope for someone else gives you a small glimpse at God’s eternal perspective. You briefly see the connections God does: how he has used you to help someone else, and how he will likely use someone else to help you. And it doesn't take long to get from there to believing in what God can do in your life.
Jesus has great opportunities in store for this generation. He is the hope that Hebrews 11 speaks about. It is his work through the Spirit that we’re anticipating and desire to fully realize. It is Jesus’ second coming that we wait for. But it is his work now that we live for.
As Christians, we are convicted that Jesus was resurrected from death and is working even now. We believe in what he is yet to do, and we should do everything we can to be a part of it.
In hope, there is something magical that ignites our spirits—and it’s something we can bring to others in the name of the Jesus.
This article is adapted in part from my earlier article, "Hope is Magical."
Jesus fought against poverty and regularly advocated that his followers do the same. Jesus’ ministry can be characterized as one of faith in action. He had faith that the evil that causes poverty can be beat. And he asked that we be people who fight against poverty.
Here are seven life-changing sayings from Jesus about the impoverished and poverty in general. Read them slowly and let the meaning of each sink in.
First and foremost, poverty was personal for Jesus. He was born poor, lived among the poor, and advocated for the poor.
Jesus also shows us that poverty is not merely a nameless thing we fight; it's advocating for people, living in real relationship with them. Fighting poverty is relational.
Poverty should also be personal to us. If we are to call ourselves Christians, we must take action to alleviate poverty.
Jesus cared deeply about the poor. We, as his followers, must do the same. We must embrace the God who came as a poor man, lived as a poor man, and died as a poor man.
Jesus gives us the power to fight both spiritual and physical poverty. When he came as a poor man and died as a poor man and rose as a poor man, he beat evil itself. He gave us the power to beat whatever difficulties we may face.
Jesus is good news to the poor. We must act on Jesus' values—loving others with everything we have, in every moment, in proclamation of the eternal life Jesus offers.
This article is adapted in part from my earlier article: "7 of Jesus' Life-Altering Sayings about the Poor."
When Jesus looks at the world, he sees what can be. Jesus shows us what the kingdom of heaven looks like and asks us to live its principles here on earth. This means turning normal personal economics upside down. This is what Jesus' economy looks like. Here are five ways you can live Jesus' economy.
When Jesus first called his disciples, they dropped everything to follow him:
“Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, [Jesus] saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him” (Mark 1:16–20 ESV).
Jesus’ earliest followers literally dropped their livelihoods to follow him—they completely dedicated themselves to him. Similarly, we are called to make sacrifices for Jesus—to show others love by giving, praying, and investing in them. For Jesus, belief and actions are one and the same—you cannot have one without the other. We must be willing to give whatever Jesus asks of us.
To a young rich man, Jesus says:
“If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21; see 19:16–30 ESV).
Regarding a poor widow who put a seemingly insignificant amount of money into the offering box, Jesus says:
“Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:43–44; see 12:41–44 ESV).
The currency of Jesus’ kingdom is different than ours. Jesus’ currency is self-sacrifice and love.
To a man with a recently lost love one, Jesus said:
“’Follow me.’ But [the man] said [to Jesus], ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:59–60 ESV).
Jesus was right there, calling him in person. And this meant the man had to act now. We all have these moments in life: When Jesus tells us to act now, and we have to take him seriously when he says so.
For Jesus, it’s all about God’s kingdom. For us, it too should be all about God’s kingdom. From a different man, Jesus hears:
“‘I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:61–62 ESV).
There are no hesitations in service to God’s kingdom and there is no looking back—it’s all about what God is doing here and now. It’s all about putting our hand to the plow of God’s work. If you love God, you love the kingdom and you love people. If you love the kingdom, you’re not going to ask yourself what else is important: you’re going to just live for the kingdom.
At the end of it all, Jesus notes that he will recognize those who follow him by whether or not they are caring for the impoverished, outsider, and marginalized. This is what the "least of these" passage is about (Matthew 25:31–46).
Jesus has also given us a mandate to bring the gospel to those who are yet to hear his name. Jesus' economy is not just about alleviating physical poverty; it's also about alleviating spiritual poverty. Jesus tells us to "make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19–20).
God has asked us to demonstrate our belief by bringing good news to those who feel hopeless. We are called to drop everything for him. This is what Jesus’ economy is all about: envisioning what the world could look like and joining God in the process of making that vision a reality.
Jesus has called us to join him in his work—to believe in it with all we have. The cost may be hard to bear or understand at times, but when it’s put in the perspective of all that Christ has done for us—dying for our sins—it seems like very little.
When God calls us to something great, it is immediately followed by a faith decision. Similarly, every action towards making our world a better place is a faith decision.
For example, when we go about alleviating poverty or bringing the gospel to the unreached, we’re placing faith in what can be. We are looking at the current situation, calling it “not good enough,” and then acting to create a better situation. When Jesus calls us to help the poor, he expects a faith-based and faithful response. This response requires understanding our place in the world.
Jesus’ disciples were not expected to leave the world, but to be part of it—and to be vehicles of change in it. Jesus makes this point in his final prayer for his disciples:
“I do not ask that you take them [my disciples] out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth—your word is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:15–18 LEB).
From the beginning of our faith walk to the end of it in this life, our journey is about being in this world, as actors of change. Faith is not a journey that is about removing ourselves from this place, but one about bringing God’s kingdom to this place. It’s a chance to make change happen that matters—to be empowered to change the course of history for the better.
What we do with faith is as important as coming to faith, for what we do once we come to Jesus is what makes a difference in the lives of others. It’s where change for the betterment of our world occurs.
How is your faith connected to your actions? Is your faith changing the way you live each day, and the way you help others?
This post originally appeared under the title "The Unfathomable Power of Faith."
“Where do you want to be in five years?” a professor asked me in the middle of the crowded dining hall.
It was March of my freshman year at a Christian university.
“Oh, I don’t know,” I answered. “Maybe Uganda? Somewhere doing missions work, though.”
While there is nothing wrong with wanting to go into full-time missions, there was a problem with my answer. The problem was that I wasn’t being honest with myself. I didn’t truly see myself in Uganda, or even want to go there. But I wanted to want it, because I thought that was what faithful Christians were supposed to do.
I thought full-time overseas missionary work was the best work any Christian could be called to. That was my first mistake. The second was that I didn’t have a clear understanding of what being a missionary really was.
Like many Christians, I had a misconception about the nature of missions work. I was 19 and convinced that full-time missions work in an impoverished nation was the best way to serve God. And I was worried that it meant I wasn’t a good enough Christian if God wasn’t calling me away to do big and scary things.
I disregarded the fact that I am an introvert who is easily exhausted by groups of people. I disregarded the fact that God hadn’t given me gifts of public speaking, teaching, or leading. I knew I could learn all those things if the mission field required it of me. God would give me what I needed to succeed in his plans.
And that’s true. But I was disregarding the gifts that God did give me; and I knew that going into full-time overseas missions wouldn’t be the best way for me to use those gifts. I knew that I didn’t really feel called to Uganda. I had for a long time felt like God was calling me to worship and serve him through writing. Of course, I could’ve written in Uganda, but I knew God was asking me to not go that far—he was asking me to stay close by and work on creating art that could make people feel and remind them what’s important in life. He wanted me to spread the gospel right here.
Every believer receives spiritual gifts to use as a member of the body of Christ. These gifts empower us to do God’s work. Not everyone is going to be gifted and called to lead. Nor will everyone be called to missions work in another country. We’re all different, and that’s a great thing about the body of Christ:
“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Corinthians 12:27–30 ESV).
It is important that believers work together as different parts of the same body. If a finger suddenly decided it didn’t want to be a finger anymore, and started to act like an ear instead, everything would fall apart. As a body, we will be most successful at spreading the gospel if we each use the gifts God has given us and not attempt to be someone other than who God created us to be.
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:4–7 ESV).
The professor saw through my lie and called me out on it.
“What really gets you going? What do you love?”
“I love writing. I’ve always wanted to write.”
“Why do you see yourself in Uganda and not in, say, Paris, writing every day at a café?”
“I-I don’t know.”
“Why full-time missions and not full-time writing?”
“It just doesn’t seem like enough,” I finally confessed.
There it was. Sometimes, doing the things we’re good at doesn’t feel like enough. Even when God gives us gifts, we disregard them in favor of pursuing what we consider to be a more noble or spiritual occupation.
I believed the myth that becoming a missionary in a far-away country was the best thing anyone could do for the Kingdom of God. I know I’m not the only Christian who has made this mistake, and this has led Christians to mission fields they do not belong in. When this happens, the kingdom is missing out on the work we are actually called to do.
Being a missionary doesn’t always mean traveling across the world. Being a missionary means taking on the mission of spreading the gospel—which is something we are all called to do:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20 ESV).
Being a missionary isn’t always about leaving. Sometimes it means staying right where you are and using the gifts God has given you. And no calling is higher or lower than another. The whole world needs the gospel, including the community you live in now.
After pursuing a writing career, God might still call me to Uganda. I’m keeping my ears open. But no matter where I go or where he calls me next, I’m going to listen and be honest with what I’m hearing.
I encourage you to do the same. Respond to the call God has placed on your life. Be a missionary in whatever you do.
Global catastrophes sadden us. The images are terrifying and experiencing such moments in history are deeply painful. Why does God allow this to go on? Is God causing it? Where is God in hurricanes and pain? Here are some answers that make sense biblically.
When God first created the world, he pushed back the chaos. He brought order where none existed. This is what much of Genesis 1–2 is about. This is why God’s focus at the beginning is the sky and the waters. He is pushing back the madness. He calls doing so “good.”
When God’s will is connected to natural disasters in the Old Testament—like the flooding of the earth—God is not happy about it. It’s a last resort. It means God letting his own work be undone. He isn’t causing the big disasters in the Old Testament; he is moving out of the way of the disasters that would be present otherwise. He wants order, not the chaos of storms. The storms sadden God. (Why destroy what you created? God wouldn’t want to destroy his own creation.)
God reaches his last resort in very distinct moments, like when an entire city has turned away from righteousness. This was the case for Sodom and Gomorrah, where not even ten righteous people could be found (Genesis 18:32–19:29). This was also the case for the flooding of the earth—only Noah and his family were found to be righteous (Genesis 6–8).
I know righteous people in the areas affected by Harvey and Irma; you probably know plenty of righteous people there too. If we do the math and run the probability of God causing all this, the answer here is pretty clear: God doesn’t want this. Instead, it’s caused by the chaos that still exists in the world. This type of chaos has been present ever since people went against God—ever since the fall of humankind with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). Chaos was reintroduced into the world on that day. But there is good news in the midst of this sadness.
When Jesus came, died, and was resurrected, the very fabric of the relationship between people and God changed. Likewise, the relationship between people and the out-of-control creation changed. (Chaos took a serious blow.) Paul describes it this way:
“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves … as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22–23 ESV).
Creation awaits the full redemption of Christ, just as our very bodies—which are currently subject to death—await that redemption.
Jesus brought full reconciliation with God the Father to humanity. And one day all of creation will experience the full meaning of redemption. We have signs of this already in the acts of Christ.
Jesus calmed storms (Mark 4:35–41). Jesus walked on water (Matthew 14:22–33). Jesus talked about how to build spiritual houses that would withstand storms (Matthew 7:24–27). Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, which empowers us to do his work (John 14:15–31). We are able to look into the eye of the storm with hope because we know what is to come.
Pain and turmoil still exist because Jesus has not returned yet. Peter puts it this way:
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise [of returning to earth] as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:10 ESV).
It is because of God’s great mercy that Jesus has not returned yet—because God wants to see many people come unto salvation. This is also why we have not seen creation completely redeemed.
When we experience great catastrophes in our world, it’s easy to doubt God’s mercy. It’s easy for us to look to God and place blame on him. But remember that one day new creation will come to be, when Jesus returns. Every tear will be wiped away and chaos will be completely put to rest. Death itself will end on that day (see Revelation 19–21).
Please pray for those in the midst of the chaos or recovering from it. Please pray for the chaos to be pushed back. Please pray because it matters. It can change things.
And take action. Support and encourage those living in the eye of the storm. Show them your love. You can even volunteer to help people rebuild. Or you can give fiscally to the relief efforts. There is power in God’s people coming together to fight back against the chaos. It shows that we believe that chaos won’t win.
This article is adapted in part from my older blog post “Is God Angry at the East Coast?” published on ConversantLife.com.