The Refugee Crisis

There has been so much talk over what to do, how to respond, and what position we need to take, regarding this crisis.

There are, it seems to me, a few issues that we’ve overlooked. The first is that we (the USA) have a hand in the origins of this crisis. For better or worse, we have been involved in the Middle East for just about two decades. We have caused tumult, unrest, displacement, and chaos. Our reasons for being there to begin with, rightly or wrongly, are byeond the scope of this blog.

Furthermore, over the last eight years, we have been involved in drone bombing campaigns as the death/displacement toll continues to rise. I am forced to ask myself this question, “What can I contribute to fix this?”

I’ve wanted to figure out how to make a difference, but being one guy facing what looks like an insermountable obstacle, is intimidating to say the least. This last week, we had special guest Kip Lines on the show. If you haven’t yet, go read his article in the Christian Standard, which can be found here:

When we look through the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, we see various examples of people being displaced, by force, or being asked to go. Particularly, however, in the Hebrew Bible, we see copious examples of charity for the alien being demanded by God, on the part of his people. Furthermore, in the NT, we see the person of Jesus who lives as a refugee, fleeing from Herod, for the sake of his life.

I want to be careful to draw exact paralleles between the biblical exampels and our current situation. Truthfully, I don’t think you can. However, what I do find applicable is the sentiment behind the story. When I read the story of the Good Samaritan, and the man who asks Jesus, in order to justify himself, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus proceeds to tell him the person that would most likely be the most difficult for him to love, is his neighbor, I am convincted. I am convicted that though the threat of one’s safety may be a legitimate concern, though the fear of the unknown of someone from a differing culture–that seems so vastly strange in comparison with my own!–is an intimidating thing to overcome, I am not called to be comfortable.

My fear, as American Christians, we have prioritized our concept of safety above that of the gospel. I am not advocating ignoring common sense. However, I am wondering if there is a certain point when Jesus’ message demands us, as followers, to be on the frontlines of helping those who are being displaced. I am convinced it does.

If you are someone who wants to do something and get involved, check your local area for ways to get plugged in. I started with a simple google search for “refugee centers near me.”

The political debate will always be raging. However, there are things that we can do for people who are already here. Maybe, just maybe, we can start there.


The Balance of Life and Death

The Balance of Death and Life

A few weeks ago, I received news of a student of mine, who was need of a new heart due to his failing one had finally received the organ he so desperately needed. He is a 14-year-old young man. He comes from a family of believers, and his faith is second to none. When asked if he would ever trade his body for one that had no issues, he stated, “No. God is doing great things to bring glory to his name through my condition.” The foresight, maturity, and wisdom that exist in this young man, are far beyond his years. I have been incredibly blessed to be encouraged by him in the midst of his difficult situation by his unrelenting desire to stay rooted in his faith.
About four days later, my best friend reached out to me to inform me that his father had died. He was simply gone. There was no warning, no time to process, no time to prepare. Simply, death. It’s hard for me to understand such a travesty, not having lost anyone terribly close to me, all I can do is extend my deepest condolences, and sit with him in the midst of terrific pain, anguish, and questioning. To question, to me, is to seek some type of solace, for an “unsolaceable” type problem. Asking questions, to which we know there are no satisfactory answers is a necessary part of our grieving process. It’s hard. While there can be some relief and comfort found in the fact that his dad was a believer, and a pastor at that, it doesn’t make it any easier. In fact, the natural question arises, “Why, after serving God for so many years, was he taken in such a sudden way? Where’s the fairness in that?”
I think about these two men. On opposite ends of life’s spectrum, one nearing his seventies, the other not even a legal adult. I think about the seeming randomness of it. My initial thought is to label it as prayer “working” for one, but not the other. I don’t think I am alone in this sentiment. Many of us, if we’re honest, would admit that we don’t fully understand how prayer works, or the seeming lack thereof in some cases.
Out of frustration, I began turning to the letters of

Paul, attempting to make sense of, or gain some clarity, or I don’t know, it just seemed to be the place to go. My searching brought me to Philippians 1, and in particular, 1:21. Paul, in the midst of his jail scenario, has conflicting feelings about wanting to be freed to return to the Philippians, or truly freed to go and be with Jesus Christ. He sums up his thoughts on the manner with a pithy phrase, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” These words have etched themselves into my brain and have fixated themselves as the object of my mental energy for the last week. “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” In the span of four days, I have seen these words lived out with a ferocity that I did not know possible.
“To Live is Christ.” This young man, clinging to life, demands that Christ be known by his nursing staff, his friends, random internet strangers who read his blog, with whomever his sphere of influence can include. The supplication of a heart fulfilled, and sure enough, he continues on, making a heavenly impact to the best of his abilities, because, “to live is Christ.”
My best friend’s father. A man who lived a wonderful life supplying love, comfort, peace, and blessings to all whom he met. Bringing me in as a part of his family, laughing, telling stories. Commanding attention of all around him with his thoughtfulness, his quiet demeanor reminding you that it really is a good idea to “think before you speak.” A man who regarded death as a mere passageway to the place where true life begins, because, “to die is gain.”
I write these words with a heavy heart. While I do not find relief at the sudden loss of life. I must take comfort in the reality that both men have dedicated themselves to Christ. I am sure that both men would demand that I continue to make Christ known in all that I do, in the totality of who I am.



Hustle and the Christian Life

As a millennial, I’ve noticed that one of the big variables in my generation’s understanding of success is this concept of “hustle.” This term seems to carry the definition, or implied understanding, of always being on the move, looking for the project to be part of, the next side job to start to make extra cash, etc. I’ve fallen into this trap myself, often wondering where I can make some extra money. I find this concept to be a bit problematic, let me tell you why.
Recently, I started wondering the validity of this way of life for myself as a believer. As someone who identifies as a Christian, I was weighing the opportunity cost of constantly focusing on “income,” not as a measure of success, but as an attempt to make my life easier. I’ve ebbed in and out of these seasons of my life, at times working as many as four jobs to bring in all the income possible. It seems like the right thing to do, as God provided me a brain, I’m good with people and I like working hard. Why not put all three of those talents into making a good life, thus making it possible to be a better member of society, and what I thought was pleasing to God.
I’m not saying that “hustle” is a bad thing, necessarily. However, what I’ve seen to be consistent is that the people who are hustling the hardest seem to be missing out on the beauty that is walking with God. When I peruse through the gospels, rarely do I see a picture portrayed of Jesus in a hurry, trying to get to the next thing. Where he is, he is all there. Even to the point of waiting a few extra days before coming to see Lazarus in John 11. “Lord, if you had been here…” Martha says.
I think we often mistake rest for laziness, at the expense of our mental health. In 2010, UCLA reported, “Fewer students than ever before are reporting above-average emotional health. Additionally, students feel increasingly overwhelmed before entering college; twice as many female students report feeling this way.” Have we hustled ourselves into exhaustion? Are we staying busy for the simple sake of being busy?

I don’t say this to say we shouldn’t work hard, apply ourselves, and be dedicated to our craft. But dedication to the point of obsession, in the life of a Christian, in my understanding, can—and from my own experience—and often does lead down the dangerous road of idolatry. Jesus slowed down, spent time away, rested, recharged, hunkering down in the presence of his Father for the sake of fulfillment, before going out again. Do you have a “Sabbath?”