Monday, February 3, 2014

One Man's Trash Is Not Another Man's Treasure

As I was perusing my Facebook feed in the wee hours of the morning (you tend to do that when you have a newborn), I came across a meme posted, referencing the outcome of the Super Bowl that was played the day before.

It depicted a group of young African boys, in just their loin clothes, celebrating and dancing. The caption read, "Denver Broncos T-shirts Arrive On Monday."  Normally I would have laughed and hit the "like" button along with many others in the church community that had already done so.

That was until I came on staff with an organization called Sounds of the Nations, and met an amazing man of God, Joseph Bataille, who proceeded to blow my mind with his perspective on missions work and how the American mindset and practical application of humanitarian aid is actually more detrimental to those we minister to than we know.

Through our ignorance, we have become skewed in what we think successful missions work is. We think that because we have surplus it must be given to those without, when in fact we are dishonoring those cultures by handing over our "junk" and calling it aid. Free clothing and food a lot of times hurts the nation more than helps. Tailors, farmers, shoemakers go out of business because we throw our unwanted stuff at these countries instead of empowering them to provide for themselves. Why would they support there own economy, by working to buy clothes of their own, clothes that is actually of their culture, when they can get free "cool" American shirts?

These beautiful people should be dressed in their own clothing and be celebrated for its diversity and worth. We as American missionaries may never say it out loud, but in our minds when we see an African kid wearing a leather strip around his waist, we believe he is obviously poor and needs to be clothed. Any shirt is better than no shirt. Any shoes are better than no shoes. This may be true to us, but it comes at a great cost when we force that mentality on our brothers and sisters in other nations.

What we think of as humanitarian aid is actually stripping cultures of their identity and showing them they are not capable of being successful as a nation. It says to them that they need to be provided for because they can't do it themselves. Say this to someone long enough and they will actually start to believe it.

Their are times when aid is desperately needed but it should never be a first response. It is our duty to first seek to understand both the circumstance and the culture involved, and determine what type of aid is actually a solution and not a band-aid. Because we have excess does not mean it benefits those without. Most of the time what is needed is a trust built through relationship and mutual respect where cultures exchange knowledge and values that benefit both sides. For example we can teach the value of an entrepreneurial spirit and they can show us how to not depend on our material goods.

 It's a huge flaw in the American missions mindset that needs to be remedied. These cultures have a rich inheritance to share and we need to honor them instead of clothing them in our junk. If we truly have a heart to share Jesus, then we will seek to honor and empower others in their God given destiny and uphold the value of their diversity as much as He does. We have as much to learn from that African boy as he does from us.

This mentality switch is not just for large corporations providing bulk aid, but it starts in the heart of the individual. My hope is that before you step foot on the mission field, both locally and globally, you would consider Gods plan for his people before putting them in your own... before taking action in the name of Jesus.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Stop. Drop. And Pray.

I have never been a political minded man. The concepts of the governmental process have always passed over my head like a low flying 747, and I just never bought a ticket on that plane. That being said, I do not profess to be an expert or even very knowledgeable about our political system. Red states, Blue States, Donkeys and Elephants have become a confusing conundrum to me that I ceased trying to wrap my mind around it.

 I find it quite amusing that the first blog I write is about the one thing that I usually try to avoid talking about. With all the articles, newscasts, and social media posts about our president and the gloomy destination of America, I couldn't help but think we are missing a big point in it all. We as a people are becoming a "reactive" society, responding to threats to our freedom with complaints, anger, accusations, and ultimately passing the blame to the corruptness of our government and leaders. Im not saying that the burden of proof is not on our leaders, I'm making a statement that we should be a "proactive" people like those that founded this country. They were willing to sacrifice everything, including their lives to see a dream survive that was all but a candle in a windstorm. Yes they demanded that their current government change, and when they didn't, they were prepared with and united in a common solution, not just a frustrated and whiny Facebook post about how the king's birth certificate wasn't really from Britain or something....but I get ahead of myself. It is a daunting task, but we as Americans have the freedom and ability to enact change through honor, unity, and prayer....

Wait...what? Did he just say the "P" word?  Are you allowed to do that in America? Yes folks, despite what the government may try to tell you, you are definitely allowed to pray...anywhere and everywhere. This post coming to you from a God fearing, Heavenly minded, and Holy Spirit led Christian...and I am writing to those who would call themselves the same.  I may not know much about politics, but there is a governmental system that I am very much aware of and interested in...the government of the Kingdom of God. Despite what our Constitution might say about separation of church and state, I outright refuse to ever declare that our beautiful, free country could ever exist or prosper without the hand of God involved. I also know that our God is looking out over this land and waiting to partner with those that would call on Him. Make no mistake, the superpower that is America will not last forever. Ask the Romans if they ever thought their empire would fall. Why are we so prideful to think differently? Our hope should be in something better.

"Our commitment to prayer is directly related to how powerful we believe God is." - Me

Christians and non-Christians alike, we have grown fat and complacent in our freedom, distanced from the source of that freedom and how it came to be. We are an entitled generation that wants their toys back from the mean parent. We throw a tantrum so we can get our guns back and a few extra dollars back on our paycheck. The totality of our solution has boiled down to digging up dirt on our leaders so we can prove they are the big bad wolf trying to blow the house down. Rinse and repeat. The devil keeps us distracted with our First World Problems, so we will be too busy to ever realize the abundant blessings that await us from our loving Father, if we would just lay down our own worldly comforts and make room for the authority and power that the Spirit of God offers us.

I am not exempt from this thinking. There was a time when I spent 9 months of my life chasing down the IRS to get back $700 in taxes that they owed me. I lost sleep over it. I called 3 to 4 times daily for 9 months, receiving nothing but a busy tone. I refused to back down. That money belonged to me and I had decided in my heart that I could not survive without it. Long story short, I did finally get refunded...and now a few years later, I can't tell you what I did with it...probably blown on some nice dinners out, video games, and other shiny things. I look at other situations in my life and I am sad to report that I was never as passionate or resolved in my fight for much bigger things in my life than that $700.  I fought so hard for an open line of communication to obtain something I believed belonged to me. Our freedom belongs to us, and we don't have to fight for that connection to it. Jesus paid for it and we can cash that check whenever we want. What fleeting things have you fought passionately for in your life? Do you fight that hard in prayer for your freedom and country.

My conclusion is that we are fighting the wrong battle with the wrong weapon. We have chosen the path of least resistance, the path of entitlement and coincidentally the path of least effectiveness when it comes to maintaining our own freedom and providing it for others. In our pride we have decided it would be better to rely on our own ability than to cry out to the ultimate ally...Jesus Christ. We must shift our perspective. God is not shunning America because of its poor choices. God is not planning to burn America for its mistakes. He is waiting for His people to put down their puny weapons and pick up the ones He provides. He is waiting for His people let go of their pride and to sit and talk with Him so he can give us our orders. He has vast armies of powerful angels ready to do battle and we are the ones that have the authority to deploy them.

Fellow Christians and warriors of God...we have work to do. The government of heaven is one of honor, grace,  and power. Put aside our tactics of condemning our leaders, placing blame, and putting responsibility in someone else's hands. We MUST follow biblical principals and not be afraid to honor the authority of our government just as Paul says in Romans 13. Paul did not write that stuff from a coffee shop, sipping a latte on a comfy couch as I am right now. He was exhorting Christians to honor the government that was persecuting, imprisoning, torturing, and murdering them. He believed that no man or system, no matter how evil, would stamp out the power of God's plan for His people. The reason for this is not to blindly accept the injustices, it is to pull on a heavenly prinicipal of honor, which in turn opens a door for God to come into the situation and display His power and get the glory. If we react out of spite and act in a rebellious way, we shut the door on God's presence because we are relying on sinful tactics that go against His Word.

 Jesus' mind was never on the amount of taxes he paid or if he was allowed to carry a sword or not. He was concerned about much bigger things, as we should we. Jesus only did what the Father was doing. We have to open our eyes and believe in what the Father is doing, and call it into existence. Jesus overthrew the government of sin and death through a sacrifice. We have a sacrifice of our own to make, our pride and entitlement, to see that happen in our own generation.

"God established our freedom, why do we so easily accept that men can take it away?"  - Me again

Make no an American Christian you are not entitled to a cushy, comfortable life that a worldly government provides for you. You are responsible for bringing heaven to earth through constant communication with God. We have the privilege of instituting a culture backed by the Almighty himself that when your children are told they can't pray in school, they pray anyway because they have seen the power of prayer through your life.  Stop complaining how Muslims and Buddhists have the right to say and pray whatever they want and JUST PRAY!!! Last I checked, Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion are still part of the Constitution so stop pretending that someone took that away from you. If that is your belief then you have been deceived and accepted a big fat lie. Stop fretting over the freedoms you have lost and take advantage of every bit of freedom you have left. God will be anywhere you choose for Him to be, and the government has no power over that.

We are not just the "Land of the Free," we are the "Home of the Brave"...bravery manifests only in the face of adversity. Right now as you read this you have the ability to act and carry on the good fight. Open your mouth. Call on your God and join me in this prayer...

I pray that we would be a people of fearless faith that declares God's authority over this country.
I pray that we would be a people that stands for honoring our leaders despite their faults.
I pray that we would be a people that seeks God's heart and voice before our own.
I pray that our nations leaders would be introduced to the love of God.
I pray that our leaders would lead by example and not hold themselves above their own laws.
I pray that we would be a humble people that is willing to convince our leaders of their righteousness instead of condemning them for their sin, just as Jesus did for each of us.
I pray that we would be a watchful people, walking the battlements, ever aware of the devil's tactics to distract and divide.
I pray for a united Church that sets aside its differences and passionately fights for a common goal to see the love, grace, and healing power of God manifest itself to every individual in this country and this world.
I pray that stewarding the presence of God in this country would take precedence over our own comfortable lives and over our fears of persecution.

God, I open my heart and my life to your perfect will. I release any bitter spirit I have toward authority and adopt your spirit of heavenly authority. I renounce any entitlement I have held on to and cling to your provision and hope. I declare grace and blessing over our nation, and I call on the power of the blood of Jesus to invade the hearts of our leaders, showing them the truth of your Word.