Archive | May, 2010

What do you believe about immigration?

28 May

In light of the new immigration laws signed into effect in Arizona, I believe now is the perfect time to take a look at our own opinions of these strangers in our own land. For those of you who don’t know, on April 23rd Arizona passed a bill allowing police to question and arrest people without warrant if there is “reasonable suspicion” about their immigration status, among other items. Whether you see this bill as a step in the right direction toward preventing illegal immigration or view it as legalized racial profiling, you should be aware that this is not the only case of its kind making headlines across the country.

Several states, especially throughout the South and Midwest are in the process of voting on bills that have to do with prohibiting people from taking their driver’s license tests in a language other than English. As of now, Georgia has passed this bill in the Senate, and the governor has publicly said he would sign it into law. Currently Georgia offers the test in 12 languages. Tennessee, Alabama, and Missouri are all also in the process of getting similar bills passed. All four states cite road safety as their number one concern in requiring that drivers be English-literate. However, in Georgia, the new law would still allow illiterate English speakers to have the driver’s test given to them orally – thus nullifying the “literacy and safety” argument.

Whether you agree or disagree with these new laws, I think it is important to assess the condition of this country. Where did we get these opinions of foreigners? Are we not all foreigners on this earth? Certainly the media has helped to form our stereotypes by portraying floods of illegal immigrants taking our jobs and neglecting taxes and clogging up our health care system, but we must decide for ourselves whether we are merely regurgitating the opinions of others that have been so forcefully spoon-fed to us our whole lives or if we truly believe that the reason for the decline of America is immigration.

What do our own personal experiences with other cultures say? For me, if I am honest, they tell me that Mexicans are some of the hardest-working people around, Asians are some of the best educated, and those from the Middle East know how to throw a party.

As for my opinion on the matter politically, I am far more interested in what the church is doing about it, as opposed to my local House Representative. We, as believers, are measured with a different ruler than those who have yet to find Jesus. What are we, the church, doing to educate our foreign neighbors? How are we serving “the least” in our own community?

Though I don’t believe immigrants should abandon their own culture, I know for a fact that learning English would greatly improve their quality of life. It will help to ease their transition into American life and open doors to higher education and to jobs. Personally, I see it as a form of social justice to provide people with a means to learn English, as it can affect their life in so many positive ways.

Unfortunately, for many adult learners, it is extremely difficult to learn English. Many refugees have never even held a pencil before. Many are too busy or too tired or too poor to be able to find the time and resources to learn English. Many of them don’t even have access to English language programs.

It is my fervent prayer that this country does not regress into a place that turns its back on the foreigners among us. Discrimination is so contrary to the ways of Jesus. As Christians, we should be at the forefront of the movement to ensure that this land continues to be a place of cultural diversity, where we welcome the foreigner and treat them with kindness.

What if the church held community English classes? What if the church became a place to empower people to succeed and to break the chains of poverty and oppression that often characterize the life of a non-English speaker? What if we removed the blinders of judgement and hatred and the veil of stereotypes? I believe we would see a person. We would see a beloved son or daughter of God.

We, the church, have the power and resources to extend grace and hospitality. Wherever you stand politically, you should know where you stand morally. This is not a Democrat vs. Republican conversation. This isn’t about taxes or laws or elections. This is about the church. This is about the followers of Christ truly following Christ. Jesus didn’t preach a message of hostility to the stranger. He taught of love for all men. And though I often don’t know where I stand when it comes to politics, I know I stand on the side of love. Where do you stand?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

28 May

In continuing with my study of bygone Christian heroes, I chose this weekend to read about Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), a German Lutheran pastor and theologian, and one of my favorite Christian authors. Bonhoeffer was also a strong force in the German Resistance movement against Nazism. At the first sight of National Socialism in Germany, he rejected it on both moral and theological principles. He was unable to reconcile the Nazi state’s claim to total control over the person with such ultimate sovereignty that He believed belonged only to God.

Two days after Hitler was installed as Chancellor, Bonhoeffer delivered a radio address attacking him, in which he warned Germany against slipping into the idolatrous cult of the Fuhrer. Unfortunately, he was cut off the air in the middle of his sentence.

In further resistance to the Nazification of the German Protestant church, Bonhoeffer became a founding member of the Confessing Church, a church vehemently opposed to Nazi interference in church affairs (such as: their attempt to remove the Old Testament from the Bible, their forbidding of taking up offerings, and the renouncing that Jesus Christ was in fact Jewish) and the adoption of the Aryan Paragraph (the official clause legalizing the persecution of non-Aryans, particularly those of Jewish descent) by the church. Bonhoeffer insisted that Christ, not the Fuhrer, was the only rightful head of the church.

Bonhoeffer traveled around studying and then teaching at various seminaries, churches, and universities until his authorization to teach at the University of Berlin was revoked in August of 1936 for being a “pacifist and enemy of the state.” The Gestapo continued to close thousands of seminaries and churches, arresting teachers, pastors, and even church members for fighting for the sovereignty of the one true God. Through the persecution, Bonhoeffer continued to live courageously, starting underground seminaries and churches across Germany. It was also around this time that he published his best-known book, The Cost of Discipleship, where he criticized “cheap grace,” a plague he considered life-threatening to the church. Bonhoeffer defined cheap grace as:

“…the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the Cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

Costly grace, he taught, is a grace that costs a man his very life. This self-sacrificing grace defines the life of the true believer, not a doctrinal system of the church with lists of behavioral codes. Bonhoeffer taught that we must be willing to lay down out rights, suffer persecution, and even die for the sake of the Kingdom come.

And he practiced what he preached.

Disgusted by the poisoning of the German church and the atrocities committed against the Jewish people, Bonhoeffer was moved to action, and joined the German military intelligence force, Abwehr, in their attempt to overthrow Hitler. As a double agent, he advocated for Hitler’s assassination and aided in the evacuation of dozens of Jews.

On April 6, 1943 Bonhoeffer was arrested because of his involvement in an operation that helped 14 Jews escape to Switzerland, leaving his beautiful fiancee of only three months. He was imprisoned at Tegel Military Prison for a year and a half awaiting trial, where, like Paul of the New Testament, he continued his work in religious outreach among his fellow prisoners and guards. He was eventually secretly moved to Buchenwald Concentration Camp, and finally to Flossenburg Concentration Camp where he was condemned to death on April 8, 1945.

His execution was particularly brutal. He was stripped of his clothing and led naked into the execution yard, where he was hanged with thin wire for strangulation. Through everything Bonhoeffer remained faithful. The camp doctor who witnessed the execution later wrote:

“I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the few steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”

Bonhoeffer’s life has been of great influence and inspiration for Christians across broad denominations and ideologies. His Christ-centered approach appealed to conservative, confession-minded Protestants, while his commitment to social justice as a cardinal responsibility of Christianity appealed to those on the more liberal end of the spectrum.

I am most inspired by his courage as a young man to relentlessly pursue God and to passionately make Him known in the face of violence, persecution, and even death. Great men and women of God did not only exist in Bible times. They have always existed, wherever and whenever a person chooses to lay down their rights for the sake of His Kingdom come.

PhotogenX DTS Video

27 May

The Father has really given me His heart for His children, and my own heart aches to hear and see the injustices being committed against His beloved sons and daughters. The following video will give you a better idea of why I am doing what I am doing. The video, created by CROWN media, the department I work for here at the University of the Nations, and by the Sex + Money documentary team, even has a little segment of me sharing a bit of my heart and what God has being doing in my life through my Discipleship Training School.

Though I have sacrificed much to serve God as a missionary, I feel as though I have lost nothing. I have truly gained everything – an intimate and personal relationship with God, exponentially increased faith, greater knowledge in God’s word, a heart for the nations, lifelong friendships, true understanding of the concept of community, and much more.

If you have a hunger and thirst for the things of God, a DTS may be for you too. If you are interested in finding out more about how you can fulfill your calling as a servant of the Lord through missions, please check out the University of the Nations website at www.uofnkona.edu.

If you are interested in partnering with me financially for my outreach to India, please send me an email or give me a call. Or, if you would like, you can donate via the Paypal button on the right sidebar.

Lastly, please let me know how I can be praying for you. I love you all and pray that His provision, peace, and blessing would pour onto your lives in undeniable ways.

In Him,

Erika

The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical

23 May

Our third reading assignment in our DTS is The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. I have read this book before, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it a second time. I believe that we don’t always read a book simply for what it is; we usually read it through the lens of who we are. And since I’m a completely different person than the one who read this book in November of last year, I got some new and beautiful gems out of it.

To fully understand this book, I believe you must understand its author. Shane Claiborne is a self-proclaimed “ordinary radical” living in a Christian community called the Simple Way that he, along with a few others, started to spread the vision of “loving God, loving people, and following Jesus.” He doesn’t have much, and he likes it that way. He chose to “live simply so others may simply live” out of his personal dedication to fully living out the principles taught in the Bible.

This book, more like a compilation of stories and perspectives, shows believers the value (and cost) of living a life completely surrendered to the will of God and the service of others. Shane speaks out against the commercialism of Christianity and watered-down messages of discipleship. He speaks out against a Christianity that offers no burden to its members. Our churches are all about making people feel good, “but then you start to think there must be something more to Christianity, more than just laying your life and sins at the foot of the Cross. I came to realize that preachers were telling me to lay my life at the foot of the Cross and weren’t giving me anything to pick up… Nobody had anything to offer us.” (p. 38)

Shane challenges his readers to “give up Christianity in order to follow Jesus.” (p. 71) He recognizes that this won’t be popular, but Shane isn’t fond of “seeker sensitive” Christianity. He says that “The great temptation is to compromise the cost of discipleship in order to draw a larger crowd.” (p. 104) We don’t want to see any rich young rulers walk away because they can’t part with their riches, but Jesus wasn’t interested in negotiations when He required that we give it all to follow Him. I like that about Jesus, to be honest. It’s hard, but like all children, I believe we want to be challenged by out parents. We want God to ask something difficult of us. It proves to us that He believes in our capability to complete what He asks of us, and to do it with excellence.

I believe that people today are disinterested in the Gospel because we haven’t given them the Gospel. We’ve given them the sell-out option, the mediocre, luke-warm message. So we have a society filled with Christians who simply go to church instead of being the church. We have young people who wear so popularly on their t-shirt the message they should be preaching through their very lives.

Shane is a radical in every sense of the word, but I think he offers a much-needed wake-up call to the sleepy-headed body of Christ. We are His hands and feet and it’s about time we started moving.

Pentecost: Keep the Fire Burning

23 May

Today, Sunday May 23, 2010 is the Day of Pentecost, a day I have never celebrated before, and a day I will never forget again.

Pentecost is historically related to the Jewish harvest festival of Shavuot, which commemorates God giving the Ten Commandments to Moses at Mount Sinai fifty days after the Exodus. It also falls fifty days after Easter Sunday, hence its name “Pentecost,” meaning “the fiftieth day” in Greek.

The real significance of Pentecost, however, has modernly become known as the descent of the Holy Spirit, which is described in the book of Acts.

“1When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” -Acts 2:1-4

This fulfilled the promise that Jesus made to the apostles before His death – that He would not “abandon them as orphans” but send the great “Counselor to be with them forever.” (Read John 14:15-27 and John 16:5-7)

With the descension of the Holy Spirit was also the completion of the knowledge of the Trinity. Before Pentecost, the believers of Jesus had only known the Father and the Son. They were beginning to understand the fullness of God.

With this beautiful and priceless gift of the Holy Spirit, came the power by which all the miracles in the book of Acts were performed.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” -Acts 1:8

And so the apostles followed Jesus’ instructions. On the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon them, the apostles went out and preached the Gospel, and through the power and authority given to them they baptized 3,000 people that same day. (Acts 2:41).

As believers, we are also co-heirs to this great power. We have been given the authority, when we are walking in accordance to the will of God, to perform miracles, to preach the Gospel, to heal the sick, to speak with boldness. Are we exercising this spiritual muscle?

The most common lie of the enemy that cripples us from exercising our authority in Christ is that we are simply not worthy of being used as an instrument in the hand of God, that we have nothing to bring to the table. How prideful are His children to think that His performance is contingent upon their excellence? It’s not about what you bring to the table. His banquet is filled to overflowing. His skills and supply are never-ending. His ability and desire to use you as His chosen instrument are indescribable.

I pray that this year on Pentecost, all of us would be filled with fresh fire, burning us from the inside out, refining our hearts, removing our pride, and making us pure and ready to be used by God for the advancement of His will in our world. I pray for new revelation of our authority in Christ. I pray for a new boldness to come alive in all of His believers all over the world, that we would march forth, unashamed, to tell all of His children about His great love for them – that He loved them so much that He sent His only son to die for them, that they might live in relationship with Him for all eternity.

I pray that our lips would be filled with words of love, that our hands would be never ceasing to ease another’s burden. I pray that our minds would be slaves to the will of God, and that our hearts would be broken for what breaks His. I pray that our eyes would never again overlook the hurting, and that our feet would be swift to run to find the lost.

I pray, above all else, for the church to be set ablaze this Pentecost. I pray that lukewarm Christianity would be a thing of the past, Lord. I pray that we would be so on fire that the whole world would feel our warmth. I pray that unbelief would be consumed today, that weak faith would be made strong, that doubts would be erased, and that every lie of the enemy would be revealed and made powerless against His people.

Let’s believe this Pentecost that we are unstoppable, and that nothing is impossible with God. Let’s sing these powerful words from every rooftop…

“The same power that conquered the grave lives in me, lives in me.

Your love that rescued the earth lives in me, lives in me…”

And let’s believe every line.


Voice for the Voiceless: Honor Killings

20 May

An honor killing is the murder of a family member by one or more fellow family members, where the murderers (and potentially the wider community) believe the victim to have brought dishonor upon the family or community.

Typically honor killings are carried out by male family members against women. Offenses deemed worthy of death include: violating the very strict dress codes of the community, looking at a man in a way that displeases him, wanting out of an arranged marriage, committing adultery, being abandoned by your husband, and being raped.

This regime of honor is unforgiving. Women on whom suspicion has fallen are not given an opportunity to defend themselves, and family members have no socially acceptable alternative but to remove the stain on their honor by attacking the woman.

Honor killings are virtually ignored by community members, and in many cases, the women are buried in unmarked graves and all records of their existence are wiped out. Often times, these women are never spoken of again.

Facts about honor killings:

-There are around 5,000 honor killings per year.

-In Turkey, a young woman’s throat was slit in the town square because a love ballad had been dedicated to her over the radio.

-Every day in Pakistan at least three women are victims of honor killings. In 2004 this accumulated to 1,349 women.

-According to the United Nations in 2002, honor killings have been reported in:  “Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, the Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, Yemen, and other Mediterranean and Persian Gulf countries, and that they had also taken place in western countries such as France, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom, within migrant communities.”

-In Jordan part of article 340 of the Penal Code states that “he who discovers his wife or one of his female relatives committing adultery and kills, wounds, or injures one of them, is exempted from any penalty.”

-In a study of female murders in Alexandria, Egypt, 47% of the women were killed after the woman had been raped.

In addition to the 5,000 women per year that actually die from these violent attacks, thousands more survive the brutality. Common methods of violence against women include: acid attacks, burnings, stabbings, and attempted slitting of their throats.

To the right is Saira Liaqat, 26, an acid burn victim from Pakistan. Her husband attempted to murder her because he wanted to marry another woman. The pain and rejection in this woman’s heart must be so great, not to mention the physical suffering she had to endure. Saira has undergone six plastic surgery procedures in an attempt to reconstruct her face.

Saira is a beloved daughter of God.

Please join me in praying for these women, these daughters of the Most High God.

Pray against humanity’s prideful desperation for honor. Honor belongs only to God. Pray that God would reveal His glory to these men that they might fear Him and value their wives and daughters and sisters as much as they do themselves.

Pray that women would be granted the opportunity to obtain government-issued identification cards and that their existence would be documented. Only 2% of women in Pakistan have identification cards, making prosecution against their murderers impossible since their is no documentation that they ever lived. Pray that God would put compassionate, justice-minded people in authority to help these voiceless women in their fight for their basic human rights.

Pray that rape victims would receive compassion, love, and help – not death. Pray that people would see these women as victims and not blame them for “seducing” their perpetrators.

Pray that God would raise up people to start refuge houses in these countries where the women can run to when they are in danger. Pray for an outpouring of financial blessing on the few houses already in existence.

Pray for a searching in the hearts of the people of these countries that they would seek truth, love, forgiveness, and compassion – and that they would find it in Jesus Christ alone.

Count your many blessings! We are so blessed to be born in a country where we have freedom, where women have a voice. With this freedom, however, comes great responsibility. We must use our freedom to protect the freedom of others. We must take a stance against injustice, that one day our children would see these issues as a healed scar in the history of our world, not as a terrifying part of its future.

“God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them.” Hebrews 6:10

To find out more about honor attacks, check out the links below:

Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan

Amnesty International

…And the Walls Fell Down

20 May

“Shout! For the Lord has already given you the town… So they shouted as loud as they could. Suddenly, the walls of Jericho collapsed.” -Joshua 6:16,20

As I read through the story of Joshua leading the Israelites to victory in Jericho I couldn’t help but think of how this is so much more than just a historical account of battle. Scripture is timeless, and it speaks so clearly to us in a modern context as well.

Joshua is reminding us of our victory in Christ. We have already won the battle. In fact, it was won before we were born. The battle for your soul was won on the Cross at Calvary, and your salvation was secure the moment you said “yes” to Jesus, accepting Him as Savior. The victory is His forever; Satan doesn’t stand a chance. The end of the story of this earth was written before our personal beginning, and we can take comfort in knowing that we will win.

So “the Lord has already given you the town”… but I’m wondering if we have any unclaimed victories in our lives. Where are you allowing the enemy to convince you that you have lost? That you can never reclaim control? That you can never change? That you will never win? Where are you allowing Satan to label you a “loser”, someone without a powerful destiny?

Reclaim your victory today! The devil is slain! Shout loudly and boldly in the name of Jesus and remind the great deceiver that he has no power in your life! Expose his lies and watch the walls of Jericho in your own life come crashing to the ground! And when your own walls have been shattered you will be free to shout loudly for those who cannot shout for themselves. You will be able to scream in the name of justice on the behalf of the oppressed. By the blood of the Lamb walls of injustice, violence, fear, hatred, addiction, oppression, shame, confusion, and pride will crumble into dust. Only the truth of God will stand.

The Lord has promised you victory. Step out boldly in faith and claim this truth in your own life. The Lord always keeps His promises.