Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Why I'm Glad To Have Malaria

In April, 2012, I was bitten by a mosquito in South Sudan that carried with it a little parasite called Malaria. That little parasite multiplied and found its way into my red blood cells. Over time it exploded the red blood cell and the broken red blood cells started clogging up my arterial plumbing and my body became anemic as I did not have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to my body. If the disease had been allowed to go unchecked for another week, I would have died...the end.

During my trip to South Sudan I visited the hospital in Lui. We were allowed to go into the infirmary and witness first hand the suffering and death as a result of Malaria and other diseases. To be honest, I tried to understand their plight but I had no context for their suffering. I had no idea what we could do or how we could help the situation. But of course...I ended up with Malaria.

I believe I contracted Malaria so I would go back to South Sudan and help. I believe God gave me Malaria so I would do something about the suffering in the villages of Kalalayi and Buagyi. So go I will. My hope is to return to South Sudan with 1000 mosquito nets, the best deterrent for Malaria. I would like to provide training and medication for the local clinic and hospital.

I now have a context for this disease and the suffering that goes along with it. I now have a role to play in the corner of the earth that God has given us to serve. It may be a bit scary to go back to a place that just about killed me, but I have full confidence in my God, who gave me the disease, to see his ministry to fulfillment.

Galatians 6:2
Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Race Perspective

Racism is alive and well in America if the recent polls are correct. A new AP poll claims that racial prejudice against blacks has increased since the election of Barack Obama in 2008. Racism is a real issue in America and electing our first black president has not helped bridge the gap. Now I have no business to assume I know what racism is because I am part of the majority. Not only am I part of the majority race but I am in the upper socioeconomic tier of that race. Poverty and oppression are not part of my heritage. I can’t relate. But I can say I don’t like racism and that I find it offensive and ignorant.

Basic logic will tell you that the amount of pigment in someone’s skin does not institute a value of that person. Last I checked the Bible still says that we were all created in God’s image…equal in all ways. But in the same spirit we are all different and unique persons. We all have different skills, talents and abilities. Some of us are smarter than others and some of us are physically stronger and more able to catch or throw a ball. Just as it is with our pigmentation, these differences do not equate value…they are just differences.

So can blacks and whites accept that they have many differences but unite in a bond of equality? It seems this is a difficult if not impossible task for many people. Feelings of anger and fear have clouded some people ability to see differences as just that, differences. Instead they are fighting for value and respect, aspects of the human condition that should be a given and universal among all people.

It reminds me of something Jesus said that I believe would go a long way in healing race relations in our communities and nation.

Matthew 22:36-40 (NLT)
“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”  37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’  38 This is the first and greatest commandment.  39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”  

Any form of racism ignores this command. Might we take this command to heart and give ourselves sacrificially to others as Christ did for us? The Beatles had it right…all we need is love!

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Waning of the Church

In a July 2nd report from the Pew Research Center, they discovered that less than half of all Americans believe that the growth of the nonreligious in America is a bad thing (48%), the rest either thinks it’s a good thing or that it doesn’t matter. It has been obvious over the past decades that there has been a steady decline in religious commitment among Americans. Here’s what Pew Research Center has to say:

For example, there has been a modest uptick over the past decade in the share of U.S. adults who say they seldom or never attend religious services. The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion also has grown in recent years; indeed, about one-fifth of the public overall – and a third of adults under age 30 – are religiously unaffiliated as of 2012. Fully a third of U.S. adults say they do not consider themselves a “religious person.” And two-thirds of Americans – affiliated and unaffiliated alike – say religion is losing its influence in Americans’ lives.

I have suspected that America is heading for a post-Christian era. As a nation, faith in God is becoming a highly combative issue in public life. Faith is being cornered behind the walls of our homes and churches. No longer is there freedom in the public sector to express and celebrate our Christian heritage and beliefs. We are told that in order to allow a Christian expression of faith we will need to accommodate and allow all faiths the same “air time”. Now though this ecumenical approach seems fair and properly tolerant, it is eroding the impact Christianity has had on public life.

Now let me get a bit controversial here…I believe this is good for the church. History shows that the more persecution the church is under, the stronger it becomes (Ex. Coptic Christians in Egypt or the Underground Church in North Korea). Even in a declining Christian culture, here in America, the majority of church goers are lackadaisical in their faith. They are not sharing about Jesus with others, they don’t read their bibles on a regular basis and their Christian faith has little impact on the way they do life on Monday through Saturday basis. We could benefit for a little more pressure.

There’s another piece to this issue that we must realize. The decline of our Christian churches has a lot to do with the crummy sales job we’re doing. Issues like denominationalism, infighting and immorality have created a negative air about the church. When it comes to our communities, we are not the positive change people look to. We have not continued the work of Christ that was so attractive to those he touched. In fact I’m not sure we are touching very many people at all.

It’s time for a change and that change starts with you and with me. The church is God’s people and we should love our communities in ways that are attractive, practical and inviting. What can you do to start this change? How can you be the attractive change the world is looking for and yearning for? We all need to be the change we want to see.