Remember, you don’t give life to the root. The root gives life to you.

photo by BrittneyBush

“Some of the natural branches have been broken off. You are a wild olive branch. But you have been joined to the tree with the other branches. Now you enjoy the life-giving sap of the olive tree root. So don’t think you are better than the other branches. Remember, you don’t give life to the root. The root gives life to you. ” (Romans 11:17–18, NIrV)

I am often reminded of this verse when in the middle of the immigration debate – which is often (irrespective of SB1070).

The arrogance and assumptions made by both sides are disheartening.  Thorough analysis of a complicated situation that literally has lives and families hanging in the balance seems rare – replaced by angry mobs chanting the talking points of whichever political leaders/reformers have caught their ears.  It is a good reminder that no matter which branch you consider yourself, cultivated or wild, you are simply enjoying the benefit of the root which is supporting you – not the other way around.  Everything can change, and quite quickly.

“Then the Lord God sent a vine and made it grow up over Jonah. It gave him more shade for his head. It made him more comfortable. Jonah was very happy he had the vine. But before sunrise the next day, God sent a worm. It chewed the vine so much that it dried up. When the sun rose, God sent a burning east wind. The sun beat down on Jonah’s head. It made him very weak. He wanted to die. So he said, “I’d rather die than live.” But God said to Jonah, “Do you have any right to be angry about what happened to the vine?” “I do,” he said. “In fact, I’m angry enough to die.” But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this vine. But you did not take care of it. You did not make it grow. It grew up in one night and died the next. Nineveh has more than 120,000 people. They can’t tell right from wrong. Nineveh also has a lot of cattle. So shouldn’t I show concern for that great city?” ” (Jonah 4:6–11, NIrV)

Just a hint – the worm is not the unauthorized immigrants to our country.

You are a recipient of grace and mercy.  You have been bestowed a tremendous privilege of living in the United States, the most prosperous nation in the world.  Remember where that life really comes from.  You aren’t it.  Ultimately our faith must not be in gov’ts, economies, reform movements, border protection, etc.   It must be in the grace and mercy freely poured out from the Father through Jesus Christ and subsequent transformation that comes from individual hearts set free.

Ultimately, followers of Christ should be more concerned about getting people into the Kingdom than in getting them out of the country.  They should do more searching of the Scriptures for guidance than scanning the channels.  The most disheartening part of these debates is how little of the former and how much of the latter is the norm for the body of Christ today.  May God have mercy on us.

The biggest challenge to our nation is an internal one and it is not immigrants.  We must have both revival and an awakening or we will not stand.  No amount of law enforcement nor border protection will change that fact.

Forgiveness – the battle of cutting free

photo by trying2

photo by trying2

Why do certain past events or circumstances seem to pull us backwards.  There can be many reasons, but in my experience it means something has been left unresolved, some hurt, some wrong dealt with, or dealt out.  Forgive and forget is the saying – but it seems we often try opting only for the latter.  But to do so is simply allowing a scab to form over an infected wound. As time goes on we may actually tune it out, assuming the problem is in the past.  But covered wounds get bumped and we feel the pain all over again.

Forgiveness can be a prolonged process.  Often we must scrape off the scab and look at an issue again. Difficult because there is still the instinct to leave it in the past, forget about it, man up and move on.  But that is like ignoring cancer.  No, we must dig deeper and apply Christ’s healing balm of forgiveness at the deepest most painful source.

I mentioned that the forgiveness can go both ways – sometimes we must forgive an offender, other times we must seek forgiveness for ourselves.  The first step is confession.carrying

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16, NIV)

While no one apart from Jesus, can truly comprehend and feel our pain, we are not called to walk alone.  Allowing others to come alongside can be an essential healing step.  Often a brother or sister in the faith can provide the added strength to get you to the foot of the cross, where the true healing occurs.  It also allows others to witness God’s grace at work in our lives, even through our failures.

There is an incredible scene in the movie ‘The Mission’ where Rodrigo Montego (Robert De Niro) plays a man overwhelmed with guilt from having killed his own brother.  It is ironic that in the film God uses the indians that Montego had hunted and enslaved for profit – to be his instruments of grace, assisting Montego break free from the burden.

Pennance will not do. It is essential to spend time at the foot of the cross, laying it all out before the One who already paid for the sins, regardless of whose sins.  He will remove the burden from you.

photo by Michael Wray

photo by Michael Wray

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, NIV)

But there is a spiritual insurgent. One who even though disarmed will use every thought and every emotion to convince you that the territory still belongs to him and that true forgiveness cannot be achieved.  But the insurgent is a liar who only seeks to kill, destroy, and to steal (John 10:10) what Christ has freely granted. For this reason we are commanded to take every thought captive and put it in submission to Christ, and Christ alone.

While forgiveness itself is obtained immediately, this battle to align our own thoughts and feelings with that spiritual reality often takes both time and diligence.  But with steadfast dependence upon Christ, the victory is assured.

Only after we have brought our wounds to the light are we able to cut free.  Leaving us finally freed for the journey with the true lover of our souls, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6, NASB95)

Refugees like me…

photo by mindgutter

photo by mindgutter

O Lord my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me, or they will tear me like a lion and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me. O Lord my God, if I have done this and there is guilt on my hands— if I have done evil to him who is at peace with me or without cause have robbed my foe— then let my enemy pursue and overtake me; let him trample my life to the ground and make me sleep in the dust.Selah Arise, O Lord, in your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies. Awake, my God; decree justice. Let the assembled peoples gather around you. Rule over them from on high; let the Lord judge the peoples. Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High. O righteous God, who searches minds and hearts, bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure. My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart. God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day. If he does not relent, he will sharpen his sword; he will bend and string his bow. He has prepared his deadly weapons; he makes ready his flaming arrows. He who is pregnant with evil and conceives trouble gives birth to disillusionment. He who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made. The trouble he causes recoils on himself; his violence comes down on his own head. I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.” (Psalm 7, NIV, emphases mine)

What a great reminder that when we cry out for judgement – we must seek it for ourselves first. It is not a ‘me against them’ or ‘us against them’ – it is us against the Lord. It is easy for pride to drive us to to respond wrongly (sinfully) both in situations where we are innocent and the more common case where we are also at least partially guilty. I long for the day when my kids will respond rightly to the ‘sins’ of their brothers or sister against them – by the time  their cases come before me – there is rarely an innocent party anymore!

This psalm puts it in perspective. When wronged, anger and self-righteousness are the usual byproducts. When another’s sin is so clearly in view, it is easy to forget or minimize our own. It is easy to desire punitive punishment and to be the means of it rather than true justice from the Lord. But we are not the measuring stick or plumb line – the Lord is. For me those cries for justice when combined with honest self-evaluation end up tempered with a desire for mercy. Mercy of course is meaningless without a clear understanding of justice. Lord, help us to do justly, love mercy, and to humbly walk with You.   You are our refuge from wickedness and evil.  Help us to see injustice as opportunity for Your fire to purify us first, as we also remember to make room and opportunity for other refugees – like me.