Refugees Need Help

b1n4d1yimaa20_tGive us counsel and make a decision. Shelter us at noonday with shade that is as dark as night. Hide the refugees; do not betray the one who flees. Let my refugees stay with you;
be a refuge for Moab from the aggressor. (Isaiah 16:3-4a)

This seems straightforward to me. I know it was written about a specific situation, but I think when we use the cultural context of Scripture to excuse ourselves from helping people, we’re wrong. We don’t honor God or His Word with that kind of dismissive attitude.

I don’t know how to solve the refugee crises around the world right now. But the problem isn’t new. What’s new is being able to argue about it online in real time, to voice each of our opinions with fears, quick answers, and detachment. As if we’re all authorities who completely understand the core issues and can foresee all the implications of what someone else suggests.

What I know is when we dehumanize others, we dehumanize ourselves.

Our lack of compassion and empathy says more about ourselves than any “issue” we might be addressing. And by issue, I mean people’s lives.

Humility.

It has risks, but so does getting out of bed every morning. If we’re not willing to live bold lives, what are our lives actually worth? Who wants to simply pass time, or waste it on social media, every day?

Risks mean we might get hurt. So might others.

Oh, wait. They already are.

People need help.

The Wrong Encouragement

b9d68234cca56c554cc9bd3c17745ebdThey encourage each other in an evil plan; they talk about hiding traps and say, “Who will see them?” (Psalm 64:5)

Encouragement can be helpful or hurtful, constructive or destructive. It gives people courage to do something, even if that something isn’t positive.

What kinds of encouragement are you giving others?

What kinds of encouragement are you inviting and allowing others to give you?

What Feels Near?

indexDo not be far from me, because distress is near and there is no one to help. (Psalm 22:11)

Sometimes, distress feels nearer than help. It might not be reality but it might be what we experience. But even when we feel close to distress and isolated from anyone who can or will help, we can ask God to be near. We often ask Him to take our distress away, assuming that will always be His choice or priority if we are close to Him and He is close to us, but that isn’t true. Sometimes, He is near among the distress. We can be close to and surrounded by both at the same time.

The Hard and Helpful Things

7c0d6a9a492ec3dfe0fcd61b8875279bSome things are hard and helpful. I’ve learned that a lot lately. We want to separate the two. If something is hard, we have an aversion to it. We don’t want to endure it. We’re rather avoid it. But we need it in order to grow, to refine us, to teach us who we are, and in most cases, who God is. Without it, we miss something.

If you try to help a butterfly out of its cocoon, trying to make it’s transition easier, it will not be able to fly. It needs the struggle to complete its transformation. The struggles prepares the butterfly for the next stage of life.

We can help each other through struggles, but we can’t completely take them away. We can be present, patient, and encouraging. We can help, but it’s not easy. It’s okay. The hard stuff is often work it when we approach it with humility and a willingness to learn and grow.

Don’t Create Victims. Equip Survivors.

imagesIt doesn’t have to be a major crisis. It can be the daily wear and tear of life. We want to help. We believe we need to help. We’re certain God directs us to help. But what constitutes true help? It is often different for varying situations and people. What will equip one person demeans or overwhelms another. What boosts and motivates one person causes another to feel entitled to future help.

When we help, we need to equip survivors, not create victims.

It’s easier said than done. We may want to take control and feel as if we have all the answers. We don’t want to be generous in case someone takes advantage of us, or we want to be generous when we’ll set a precedent we can’t maintain. So, how do we know how to respond?

Let God lead, then trust Him with the results.

The results we see won’t be perfect. They will be messy, because life and people, including ourselves, are all messy. We may think we’ve failed someone when he or she needed to struggle through the situation in order to grow. We may think we’ve helped when we’ve started a ripple effect that negatively affects many.

But God can deal with it all. What we offer must be purely motivated, seeking to honor Him each step of the way. We need to give Him our strengths and weaknesses, humility and motivation, doubts and fears. We can trust Him to help us survive and thrive through the process of helping others despite, and perhaps because of, the difficulties.

Worship Today

My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don’t have to see to believe that You’re lifting me up on Your shoulders
Your shoulders

You mend what once was shattered
And You turn my tears to laughter
Your forgiveness is my fortress
Oh Your mercy is relentless

Living the Good News

We boil it down to the basics: Love Jesus. Help others love him, too. But we have different approaches:

  • Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.
  • Help people. And if you can’t help, at least, don’t hurt them.
  • Give what you can, and you will receive more. Helping others achieve their dreams will help you achieve yours.

Ocean-Water-Background-Tumblr-3We like to boil things down to the simplest form. We like quips that affirm and encourage us. If it sounds good, we think it is good. If we can’t readily see how something contradicts Scripture, we assume it’s consistent with Scripture. That’s not always the case. We have to know Scripture well in order to find what is consistent and what isn’t. In many cases, we can find or recall a verse that supports just about any perspective we want. That approach only affirms us; it’s not a reliable approach to a faith-filled life. That kind of life requires humility, which we don’t always like because it makes us feel vulnerable and gets us out of our comfort zone.

Vulnerability and discomfort often describe living out the gospel, too. We prefer living out and sharing the gospel in more comfortable and convenient ways. Lifestyle evangelism—living out the good news in our everyday lives—is an excellent approach to sharing Jesus with others, because we have established influence on those in our immediate circles and regular routines. However, we can sometimes fall back on a distortion of lifestyle evangelism as if we’re falling into a comfortable couch. It feels good. We don’t have to do much more than what would be doing otherwise. We just continue living our lives and let God use everything we do and say. He’s powerful enough to do that. We can trust Him to work in our and others’ lives.

But our motives matter. If we simply want to boil down how we share faith in the simplest approach, how humble can we possibly be? Evangelism becomes more about us than others, and that’s not true evangelism. God won’t always have us go out of our way, but he will always have us set aside our way for his. The two sometimes coincide, but we should never settle for starting with our own way and trying to rationalize God’s support for it. Instead, we get to know him well and check with him every step of the way so that there is less of us and more of him.

Living the good news doesn’t always have to be difficult, but when it becomes chronically easy, we need to question our efforts. If we’re never outside our comfort zones, it’s as if we recline on the couch and expect God to use us where we are, bringing people to us. Instead, we have a responsibility to GO, to get off the couch and move about the neighborhood and engage the world. It’s not just want we do for others but how we live life with others.

Consider the words we often use in front of “church”: at church, in church, my church. Is it your church or God’s church? If it’s truly God’s, you’ll spend as much or more effort to “go” than to convince people to “come.” The church’s reputation outside the walls will be more radical and relevant than what happens inside. You’ll invite God to clear out any hypocrisy or self-centeredness as an individual and church family by living faith-filled lives outside the walls of a building. The good news is simple in truth but takes intentional, humble, authentic, sacrificial effort every moment of every day.

  • It requires patience with the person who opposes you.
  • It requires kindness for the person who offends you.
  • It requires gentleness when you confront someone.
  • It requires love when you’d rather retaliate.
  • It requires faithfulness when you’d rather give up.
  • It requires self-control when you’d rather do things your own way.