Growing Awareness

God found a lot of different ways to raise my awareness of the problems of poverty and injustice. For one thing, I started hanging out with Mike King. He’s trying to do a new kind of youth ministry, so I hang out with him because I like to see how he’s training young people. One of the things he’s trying to do is help kids understand what’s going on in the world. He introduced me to the Something to Eat program, and when I read about human trafficking in the newspaper I asked him what he knew about the Not For Sale Campaign.

As I started learning about problems like hunger and slavery, I started reading more about them. And when I did that, the suffering of these people grabbed my heart.

Also, I have boys of my own now, and I’m feeling a strong fathering instinct. I’ll do whatever it takes to be sure they are fed. I feel this powerful sense of compassion, and I want to make sure my family is safe. So I really feel for the people that are trying to do whatever it takes and they still can’t feed their children. That would be devastating to me. Like I said, it grips my heart.

I used to wonder why teenagers are homeless. Are they running away? Then I spent time at a shelter for homeless youth, and I learned something shocking. Yes, some of them are runaways. But a lot of them have come out to their parents and said that they are gay, and their parents kicked them out. These kids are on the street because their parents want nothing to do with them, just because of their sexuality.

They get kicked out of their homes, and then they get trafficked. They get sent out as prostitutes, and they have go. If they don’t, they won’t eat. If they don’t, they could get killed. Something like 80% of the girls in one of the shelters I visited had been trafficked at one point in time, or had been raped, or had to have sex for money to live. They have no choice, they die.

How do you even make sense of that? This is not light! This is evil! There is something so wrong with this. I would never throw my son out on his own, saying, “Fend for yourself.” I wouldn’t do that because he would die! Even if these kids physically survive, they die inside. There’s a lot of restoration work to be done.

It’s so sad, and so confusing. It’s happening right here, in our own country. There’s not nearly enough love. There’s not even enough understanding of the concept of love. And I just don’t get that. I don’t understand where our thoughts and intentions are when it comes to love.

Maybe I used to understand. Or maybe I never really understood. Maybe there was a time when I could just ignore it, or shrug it off.

But now I’m not okay with any of it.

All of these things are hitting me because God is showing me. This is God’s concern! So the more I pray about it, and the more I ask Him to show me awareness, the more He responds. He is always showing me more.

And you know what? It doesn’t overwhelm me! It doesn’t make me say, “God, there’s no way I can ever help. This is too much.”

Actually, it stirs me. It stirs me to want to join or start a movement. I’m not saying I want to start an organization. I have one of those already. I want to start a movement. Think of what Martin Luther King, Jr. did. He caused a whole country to embrace his dream and say, “Whatever it takes, we need to create justice where there is injustice.”

I know King died for that. But the movement continued, because God is moving in the world, and stirring His children. He is stirring me. Is He stirring you?

See you Tuesday.

Because I’m Saved

What do children think when you hide alcohol in the house? Dad must be hiding it because he doesn’t want anybody to know it’s there. Why? Is it wrong? Maybe we should try it. You know that’s the thought process.

In my home, my sons will know where the beer is. I’ll tell them, “The beer is in the refrigerator. You can’t have it. You’re not old enough to drink. But it’s right there. In fact, I’ll tell you what, why don’t you go get me a beer. I’m old enough to drink, so go get me one, please.” I want them to be able to go get it, and hand it to me.

I’m not going to hide the fact that there’s alcohol in the house, because I want my sons to think, “Dad is being honest with us. Dad loves us and trusts us to know that there’s alcohol in the house. He’s not hiding anything.”

Sometimes kids have issues because their parents don’t want to address the reality of drinking. Some parents try to guilt their kids or scare their kids into not drinking. But that’s a problem, because then those kids only respect their parents out of fear or guilt, not love. That’s not how I want to raise my children.

LoveGreaterThanFear

I want my children to respect me. I’m hoping they will respect me enough to know that they’re not allowed to drink. If I do catch them drinking, there will be some disciplinary action. Will I have to take the alcohol out of my house? I hope not. I would, if they’re not making wise decisions. But I’m not going to start my relationship off with my sons by hiding things.

I don’t want my sons to look at me and say, “That’s my Dad who I respect because I’m scared of him.” I don’t want them to say, “That’s my Dad who I respect because I hate feeling guilty whenever I’m around him. I would rather obey him than feel guilty.”

I want my sons to say, “That’s my Daddy. I love and respect him because he loves and respects me. He’s honest with me. I know I can talk to him any time about anything. He won’t fly off the handle and yell at me. He won’t guilt me into doing what’s right. We’re going to talk things out and I’m going to feel so calm around him that I’ll want to do what’s right, because I respect him.”

It’s the same way with Jesus. Some people say they love and obey Jesus because He’s God, but that might be putting it backwards. It’s because He loved me and died for me that I obey. Put another way, I don’t obey in order to be saved. I obey because I’m saved. That’s the relationship Jesus wants to have with us.

I don’t want my sons to look at me and say, “I respect you because you’re the father figure of our home.” I want them to say, “Dad, because you’re the nurturing father figure of our home, I respect you and I love you. I’m not just obeying you because I’m afraid of you. I’m obeying you because I’m your son. You have done so much for me and you care for me, and I love you.”

That’s the reality that I want for my family.

I’m going to wrap up this short series on drinking with a few words for the churches. See you Monday.

The Power of the Young

Two days until our Something to Eat event in East Palo Alto! We had such an incredible response to our 2011 event in Spokane. For four hours, 350 young people packaged meals. We were moving all day, working really hard, and we prepared 75,000 meals for the food banks.

Curiously, only one news crew showed up. We thought that was sad. You had 350 kids in Spokane, Washington taking care of people that were hungry, and the news crews had something better to do? I think not! I think that they missed the ball on that.

We weren’t doing it for media exposure, but the community needs to see that young people are acting in a positive way. Those kids definitely didn’t come to be on TV, yet they did such a special thing.

GAThis country needs to see that young people are no longer willing to be uneducated. They will respond when a crisis hits. They’ll hear about something like the suffering after the typhoon in the Philippines, and they’ll respond. They won’t sit there and say, “We never knew that this was happening.” They’ll say, “We know what’s happening, and we’re here to help with that. We’re going to fix that. We’re going to love our neighbor as ourselves.”

The Bible was written to bring complete peace to the world, by teaching us to love God and our neighbor. There’s no law against love. You cannot love somebody too much. You can’t go to jail for loving somebody. No one can hate you for loving somebody. No one’s going to be able to do that. The Bible is a fulfillment of peace, that’s what it is.

And so we need to know about these kids, loving their neighbor as themselves. The human traffickers need to know about them. They need to know that these kids have made up their minds and are saying, “We’re not going to sit back and accept that the chocolate industry is slaving out other kids. We’re not going to be okay with that. Because that’s a lack of respect for humanity, and that’s not how we love our neighbor. And the only way to bring peace to this world is to love our neighbor as ourselves.”

People need to know about the devastation of hunger, and lack of water, and lack of homes. And above all people need to know that our kids are no longer standing for it, and they’re going to fight it. This generation is going to be the generation that does what it takes to bring about a worldwide peace. People need to know.

Replacing Judgment with Love

Nietzsche said the last Christian died on the cross.

That is such a bold, yet powerful and piercing statement. Is it true? In some ways I feel that it is. And that’s painful!

It’s not just how one man saw it, either. I think a lot of people see it that way. Jesus would not want it to be true, so we need to do something to change it.

It’s a joke how much we judge in the church. Continue reading

Relationships, Not Rewards

Christians are called to love. To love like Jesus requires grace! As I reflected last time, loving like Jesus means loving and giving and sacrificing with no thought of the reward. Jesus died for us without calculating a reward. He knew that a lot of people would forget Him, or not return His love. But He died for us anyway. And He freed us from the bounds and obligations of law! Now we live in grace, filled with His Spirit. And by His Spirit, we love our neighbors like He loved us.

When I help somebody out, I do it because I love them. I don’t do it so that I can get right with God by scoring charity points. I don’t need to! Jesus already got us right with God. Continue reading

Why Jesus Died For Us

Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:41-44

Jesus looked at Jerusalem and He wept. He looked at Jerusalem and He said, “I see what’s going to happen to you.” It was still a few decades away, but Jesus could see what was coming. The Romans would demolish the city and nearly everybody in it would die. Jesus wept because these were His people and He loved them. He loved humanity. He loved us – you and me.

Jesus loved humanity so much that He died for us, even while knowing that in two thousand years, a lot of us would not even care that He existed, much less care that He wept. Continue reading

And He Will Return

“I love you.”

I see the homeless guy, and I love him. I’m going to help him if I can. That’s being Jesus. That’s the movement I’m asking you to join. It seems simple, and you might think, “Of course, that’s how I was raised,” but most of us still don’t do it very well. I don’t do it very well. There’s so much more I could do to love my neighbor as myself. I keep trying!

The movement to love our neighbor as ourselves is stirring. It is stirring in this world. It is awesome to see.

I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes Americans forget that there’s any other country out there. Continue reading