Thursday, February 2, 2017

Refugees, Aliens, and Foreigners...Oh My!

The following is an open letter sent to people at Grace Church Camby, IN.  Just trying to help in the chaos of this issue.  

Dear people of Grace,My heart has been distraught by the refugee and immigration conversations. What I am sharing comes from my heart and not from a political position. We as followers of Jesus must come together with the truth and grace of God’s Word. 


Recently, I saw a post on Facebook entitled: Three Things You Can Do Right Now to Show Your Support of Refugees.  I was intrigued.  What I found was the following: 1. Sign the Petition. 2. Contact your legislators. and 3. Share via social media.  As I read this I had a question: how does this help?  I understand the desire for unity and solidarity for those who are outcast. However, is that really going to show refugees I care? This issue has become political but at the heart of it is people not politics.


I’m concerned for people citing Scripture to prove a political position. It is as though If you do not agree with an open border approach or a temporary ban on entry to the United States, you are either not a follower of Jesus or very misguided in your understanding of Scripture. At Grace we have people on both sides of the political spectrum.  My prayer is we find common ground on these issues and be unified with the ‘end game’ of refugees and immigration. Both sides want peace. Both want people to be cared for. Both want justice to prevail and life to be lived to the fullest. The continuous and contentious, point, counter point, “I can manipulate Scripture to prove my point,” is not helpful. Here is a recent blog post from Pastor Gary about social media that maybe helpful: https://garysinclairconnect.wordpress.com/


With this in mind, here are some thoughts to guide our discussion and actions as followers of Jesus.


First, the issue at hand is extremely complex. If it were not so, the issues would have been solved years ago. What isn’t helpful is the misinformation, rumors, half-truths, and myths that perpetuates division. When the issue of caring and supporting refuges is on the table, I want to defer to those who have been intimately and effectively involved, listening to their perspective.


Last August, I was in a meeting with 40 other pastors and Richard Sterns, President of World Vision International. World Vision is one of few relief organizations who are in the Middle East working with refugees. He shared, first hand, the needs of the refugees.  He made a statement that brought clarity to the issue. He said: “Over 90% of refuges when asked, ‘where would you like to live,’ responded, ‘In my home country or as closely to it as possible.’” I had to ask, why then do we think bringing people here is a great idea, if they would rather remain in their region? I since learned of the added expense, time, and trauma that exists when refuges relocated to the U.S.A. Here is a startling statistic from the Center for Immigration Studies: ”each refugee from the Middle East costs…$64,370 to relocate and sustain them for 5 years in the U.S. — 12 times what the UN estimates it costs to care for one refugee in neighboring Middle Eastern countries.”  The resources it takes to resettle 1 refugee could go to help 12 refugees settle in their region. Richard then challenged us to make a difference by going to or sending resources to these areas!


Second, we need Scripture to guide us. It reminds us to seek God when we are at a loss for what to do. Are we praying about this? Before signing a petition, contacting anyone, or posting anything, first go before a Holy, Omnipotent, Gracious, Loving God.  The Bible talks about refugees, aliens, foreigners, and those in need. We are to be compassionate and ready to give a cup of cold water in Jesus name. Scripture talks about being light where we are. Last Sunday, a woman approached me after the service and said: “Can you help me, I’m living out of my car?” I don’t want to  minimize the refugee issue but there are people here who are living as refugees, aliens, and foreigners. Could it be God IS giving us opportunities to be his hands, feet, and heart here? This is not to say we shouldn’t be involved with those across the ocean but what does it say if our attention is ONLY on those in Syria, Somalia, or other war torn countries while we neglect people here? Maybe it’s a both/and proposition!


Here is my challenge. First Pray. Ask God what he wants you to do regarding this issue. 


Next, become informed about the ways you can make a difference. A way that gets you personally involved. I have included in this letter a few links to help. 

Then, do something! If God leads you to sign a petition, contact a legislator, and post on social media, then do that. If he says, share what you have with who are near you, then do that. Or if he directs you, get involved with those who are on the ground in these war torn countries. 

However God leads you, please know as your pastor I care about you and abouthow we engage this issue and other issues with one another. Please keep in mind: Colossians 3:12-17 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Each of us want to live out our faith in ways that make a difference and bring “up there down here.” We can do this in a way that brings people to Jesus and sees a church come together in love without having to agree politically.

To make a difference for those in our area living as refugees, foreigners, and aliens, DO NOT MISS SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 12. You will be given a very practical, tangible, and possibly life changing opportunity. Bring a blanket to give away and be ready to rave about God.


Grace and Peace to You all,


Marty Longcor,Pastor


http://www.preemptivelove.org http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2015/november/love-refugee-with-compassion-christ-has-shown-you.html

Friday, May 13, 2016

Right Between the Eyes!

Ever have one of those moments? You know, the kind where you are hit right between the eyes with something you just can’t ignore.

One of my first memories of church took place outside with a pile of dirt. I was in 1st grade and the service had finished. A group of us met out at a dirt pile by the construction site of the pastor’s house. When you put k-3rd graders by a dirt pile after sitting through church, there is a 99.9% chance dirt will take flight. Yep, within minutes a dirt clod fit broke out.

“Buddy Smith,” not his real name to protect the guilty, was a year older and destined to be a major league baseball pitcher, picked up a dirt clod and let it fly...at me.

After I came too, I had a golf ball sized lump right between my eyes. The last thing I remembered was a meteor coming my way. Needless to say, the war ended with wails of pain coming from yours truly.

The lump finally disappeared but 50 some years later, I still remember it.

I’ve had other “right between the eyes” hit.  The last one happened just Wednesday as I took some time to read and pray.  

“Marty, who are you discipling?”  SMACK…ouch, what?

So now, I’m on a quest I can’t ignore!  This quest is to get clarity on this for myself and a whole church? 

What is a disciple

What does it mean to make disciples

Why do followers of Jesus struggle with this? 

Any ideas?  

I would love to hear your thoughts!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get some ice for my head!

Marty


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

CAPTIVATED!



I don’t know if you saw it or not but last Sunday night on the Fox television network Tyler Perry hosted a live event of the Passion of Christ.  From historic Woldenberg park in New Orleans, LA the story of the last few days of Jesus’ life was artistically portrayed by using todays biggest hits.  I sat in awe as the story unfolded with song after song I had heard on the radio.  Within the context of the story line of Jesus’ journey to the cross and finally the resurrection I was captivated.  The events took on fresh perspective as I listened to the lyrics and watched the emotion of the people in the crowd.  

Watching this production gave me a new resolve to bring the arts into the church and ministry.  The creativity, thought, and artistry brought the age old story of God’s redemption into the 21st Century with amazing clarity.  Now some would be critical and say: “That’s just entertainment!  Entertainment shouldn’t be in the church!”  I beg to differ.  The definition for entertainment is to capture attention.  From what I read in Scripture Jesus captured attention. And since we have the greatest news known to humanity, shouldn’t we seek to present it in ways that captivate attentions? Besides, where did the gifts of creativity, musicality, drama, etc come from?  Enough said.


When I think of heaven I don’t think so much about harps, robes, clouds, and everything that has been depicted.  I think of creativity that captivates, a depth of thought expressed with an artistry that leaves one speechless.  Well, maybe not speechless because we know the words HOLY, HOLY, HOLY will flow effortlessly! As you continue through this holy week.  I hope you will take some time to be captivated by the beauty of Jesus and his amazing love for you!

Shalom,


Marty

Monday, January 11, 2016

Lessons from Toby

Toby, our Schnoodle has been in our family for over a year now.  The other day I noticed something that made me stop and think.  

I was getting ready to go run. Since Toby first came to our house he has been my running partner.  Toby is part Schnauzer, part Poodle.  Schnauzer's love to run, Poodle's, not so much!

Lately, Toby has been exhibiting more of a Poodle attitude toward running than the Schnauzer side of him. 

It's funny to watch him as he comes to the realization I'm going running and how he tries to get out of going with me: hiding in his kennel, lying down acting as though he's sleeping, dragging his feet, and refusing to go to the door.  

Once he's outside, the Schnauzer in him kicks in and he starts tugging on the leash, ready to go.  As we run, you can tell he is enjoying it.

I can relate. Everyday there are things I have to do that on the outset I don't want to do but once I get started, something happens and I take off like Toby going for a run.  

Now, if I wanted to go spiritual in this post I could draw the comparison that I am a lot like Toby.  While I'm here on this earth I'm pulled between living by the Spirit or the flesh.  But, I'm not going too. That would be just silly, drawing a spiritual lesson from a dog!  

Marty

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Danger of being an Either Or Person in a Both and World!

Terrorists, Immigration, Refugees, Politics, Race and Starbucks!  All have been in the news this last week and depending on who you talk to perspectives are varied and haired. Emotions are escalating as seen in the news and on social media.

Polarization is a danger that may eclipse all the above.  According to Webster’s, “Polarization” is a noun po·lar·i·za·tion \ˌpō-lə-rə-ˈzā-shən\  and can mean:

1. (the) division into two opposites                
                          OR 
2. (the) concentration about opposing extremes of groups or interests formerly ranged on a continuum

I have noticed that when I get into a “discussion” it becomes increasingly difficult to remain objective, open, and differentiated (Differentiation involves the ability to remain emotionally present, engaged and nonreactive in an emotionally charged situation, while simultaneously expressing one’s own goals, values, and principles. J. Wright, New Zealand Australian Journal of Family Therapy)  What happens when I become polarized?  I Stop Learning.  What happens when I am NOT differentiated?  I Stop Listening. 

When I Stop Learning and Listening, I begin thinking, talking, and acting in an either or way instead of being open to both / and perspective.  There are issues where God calls me to either or belief, but what I’m discovering is those things are few (The way to God- Jesus, How I live- like Jesus, Where I find truth- The God who revealed Himself in Scripture). 

As a Christ-follower the issue of polarization presents an interesting dilemma.  For instance, take the Syrian refuge issue.  On the one hand I understand the issue of refuges needing a place to escape from death and destruction.  The Bible talks about the need of being “open to the foreigner, to show compassion, and acceptance.”  But on the other hand, I also understand the Biblical concept of being “wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”  Having a willy, nilly approach to opening our boarders without any restraint doesn’t seem to be very wise.  But is there an answer that isn’t choosing either extreme?  There is and there are those who are immersed in this issue and have great insight on how to deal with the duality.  

I believe there are threats we need to be vigilant about when it comes living in this world. But I also believe that if we continue down the polarization trail, the biggest threat maybe ourselves.

Just my thoughts,

Marty

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Tunnel Theory

While on vacation in South Carolina, we went to a historic site where one of the 52 waterfalls in the state was right next to a pre-Civil War railroad tunnel.  Well, actually, it was a cave more than a tunnel.  The tunnel, which was to be a part of a railway line from Charlotte to Cincinnati, was never completed due to the Civil War and then the bankruptcy of South Carolina.  Since the "tunnel" is a historic site we could go into the almost quarter mile cave.  No lights, sounds of dripping and running water, and no clue if we'd come out alive! 

One of us was really frightened to do the adventure walk.  Clutching my arm and almost having to drag said other member of our dynamic duo, we made our way by only our IPhone flashlight. Note: IPhone flashlights are not designed to illuminate such dark tunnels.  We made our way to the end of the "tunnel" and were met  with a big iron gate/door.  I couldn't help myself and had to stick my head in to "see" even though it was pitch black.  Immediately I thought to myself: "this is what horror movies are made of."  I wondered if a zombie, mummy, or some creature would grab me around the neck and slam me into the bars.  I have to admit, a little streak of fear, okay, a big streak of fear pulsed through me.  As I turned around, the said member of our duo was already a fourth of the way out back to the opening.  I could see the light of the opening and her silhouette as she walked.

We both made it out alive...barely. 

Tunnels, are all around.  Some are long and winding, others so short you can see the end before you enter the tunnel.  Literal tunnels amaze me.  How did someone do that?  Figurative tunnels annoy me, they scare me, they challenge me, they cause me not to want to go in them.  Know what I mean?  The times I've discovered I've entered into a tunnel of chaos, conflict, or challenge.  My path on this planet has brought about many "tunnels" that are necessary to go through, but not very pleasant, to say the least.  The best thing about these types of "tunnels" are the exit on the other side.  You know, that relationship, job, assignment, conversation, or waiting that has the blackness of a real tunnel and carries with it the same fear and trepidation I felt in South Carolina.  These tunnels don't seem to have any respect for who we are, what we know, or what we have gone through.  Tunnels of physical pain and suffering, emotional depths of depression, fear of the future, financial ruin, and relational collapse can all feel the same: dark, damp, depressing, and full of fear.

Here are a few thoughts I've had regarding these tunnels.

1. Tunnels are a passageway.  We are not meant to stay in the tunnel.  

2. If I consistently take my next step, I will eventual get through to the other side where there is light and a new location.

3. I am not alone, no matter how lonely I may feel. There is One who has promised never to leave me.

4. The tunnel helps me grow.  I don't walk by what I can see in the tunnel but by the faith I have in the One who is with me.  Believe me, there have been some tunnels that have been pitch black and all I could do was trust the One who was guiding me through.

So, what's your tunnel story?  From a fellow tunnel traveller!


Marty

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

HOLD ON!

I don't like to hear these words...just "hold on a second.” It makes me tired and left wondering, "hold on to what?"  I get the idea that I need to be patient but pushing the pause button doesn't come naturally, at least not to me.  There are those times when I look back and remember how I have not been the follower of Jesus I should have been. I have been really impatient, saying things that shouldn’t be said, or not doing what I know God calls me to do. The saying from Franklin D. Roosevelt has been quoted quite a bit: "If you are at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” When I get into the quandary of thoughts, it feels like I have come to the end of the rope.  My question is what knot? (no pun intended) What do I hang on to?

I've been on a journey of reading chronologically through the Bible.  It's been enjoyable to read the historical books and the books of the kings along with the Psalms and prophets.  It’s interesting to see the interplay between the books.  I'll have to admit though, as I looked at the schedule I wasn't too excited about a few of the books.  The one I was the most skeptical about was Lamentations, written by the "weeping prophet," Jeremiah.  I didn't foresee the surprise that awaited me.  I began in chapter one and slogged my way through the first two chapters of how God had rejected, poured out his wrath, afflicted, etc.  I was ready to apply my training in rapid reading to keep me from tumbling into the pit of despair when I came across verses 19 through 26 of chapter 3:

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. 21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." 25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

There it is, the "knot."  God's great love.  Because of it I am (k)not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning, great is his faithfulness.  My knot?  His great love, his mercies, his faithfulness.  Because of that I can wait!

So, what's your knot?

Peace Out,

Marty