Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanksgiving Leftovers...

The Thanksgiving holiday came and went with the usual overeating on my part. The wife made a particularly delicious corn casserole that I relished the thought eating for days with leftovers, only to find that she’d unceremoniously dumped it after a day in an effort to make room in the refrigerator. I was not happy about it in the least bit.

There were a couple of other things about the Thanksgiving holiday that raised my dander a bit. Okay, maybe more than a bit...

Thanksgiving itself has become more and more just a prelude to commercialistic Christmas. Black Friday has seeped into Thanksgiving night (or afternoon) shopping. I went into the local Walmart on Thanksgiving morning to pickup some last minute items for the big meal that afternoon. I walked by pallet after pallet after pallet of cellophane wrapped items marked with the times, i.e. 8:00PM, 10:00PM, etc, that each pallet of stuff would be unwrapped for shopping availability.

I didn’t look too closely at the items, but I did notice that there wasn’t anything there that I would wade into the masses to fight over. In fact, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would, but the next day I watched a video of a chaotic crowd fighting over the items on one such video. If you have a minute check it out here:

It’s beyond bothersome that as a society we’ve come to this point of materialistic idolatry. I think it’s safe to say that Jesus’ teaching in Luke 12:15 " on your guard empathically against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions" was pretty much thrown out the window in that crowd.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t lay the blame on WalMart or any other business. They are merely taking full advantage of what we’ve become as a society. But the real victim is a once-cherished holiday tradition of giving thanks to God for our many blessings that has deteriorated to this current sad state of affairs...

On Thanksgiving weekend, I took the family to a afternoon matinee of the movie Life of Pi. It was a 3D flick about a boy and a tiger, or at least that’s what I thought. What we sat through was a movie which had a not-so-subtle spiritual message that there exists many paths leading to God, and, as long as you believe in something, anything, you’d experience your spiritual awakening and a relationship with the Almighty.

The main character was a Hindu/Muslim/Christian. As the narrator of the film, he told the story of being a believer in all three religions. Let me say emphatically, there is no such thing as a Hindu/Muslim/Christian. Pi’s own father said it best when he told his son, "If you believe in everything, you believe in nothing." I can’t speak on first two religious beliefs, but when Jesus said, "No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6)," He meant just that. This movie was basically making Christ a liar and I’m regretful that I supported it with my money. Don’t go and do likewise.

I long for the day when as a nation we fall on our collective knees and cry out to God for forgiveness for our waywardness and truly thank the Almighty for how blessed we are as a country. In his original proclamation that set forth the holiday we now know as Thanksgiving, President Abraham Lincoln stated it was "a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens." It speaks volumes about our country, and our President, that this year,  Barack Obama’s Thanksgiving proclamation failed to mention God completely...for the fourth year in a row.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Special Moment from Brazil

There was nothing out of the ordinary about the woman that caught my attention. She sat unemotionally quiet with the other women, not interacting with anyone. She appeared to be around 30 years of age. I wasn’t sure she’d listened to a word I’d said through my interpreter that afternoon. As I spoke to the women of a drug and alcohol rehab clinic in Goiania, Brazil, the woman’s expression was apathetically distant.

During my message about Jesus lifting up and redeeming troubled women in the Bible, I noticed another young woman becoming emotional, quietly sobbing to herself, while others around her tried to comfort her. It was obvious that God’s word was touching her heart, and I wasn’t surprised to have her respond during the invitation to receive Christ. But the whole time I was speaking, my attention kept being drawn back to the first woman. The more detached she seemed from my message, the more my attention was drawn toward her.
The weeping young woman was the only one that came forward during the invitation. We celebrated the new sister in Christ with a commitment prayer and song. Pictures were taken and her once downcast, tearful face was now beaming brightly with the joy of a new Savior, and new life in Christ. But the quiet woman didn’t take part in the celebration. Instead, she sat quietly off by herself, seemingly just waiting for us to leave the facility so she could continue her regular routine.
We gathered our things, and the international team started leaving the area, along with most of the staff and residents of the facility. I packed up my backpack and started following the others out when I noticed the quiet woman still sitting off by herself, staring ahead with not a hint of emotion. As I walked toward her, I attempted to make eye contact, wanting to acknowledge her with a nod or a smile, but she didn’t look up at me.

I walked on, but as I got to the woman, something stopped me dead in my tracks. I can’t exactly tell you the feeling I had in words, but I definitely felt a message in my head, in my heart.
"Don’t you walk past that woman..."

I can’t say it was the booming voice of God or something written in the sky, but it was clear and it was evident that I could not continue on with the others. Oh, by the way, my interpreter just happened to be walking past at the very moment I stopped...

"Hello, what’s your name?

She gave me the briefest of smiles, one which revealed a past use of methamphetamine. We talked a bit about this and that, then I asked Eliana whether or not she’d ever received the forgiveness that only Christ’s shed blood on the cross could provide and she lowered her head and said, "No, I’ve been too bad." It was at that point that the once stoic woman began to sob...

The truth of the matter is, we’ve all been "too bad." We’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, as Romans 3:23 reminds us. But there is the hope that we find only through God’s plan of salvation through Jesus’s death on the cross. It is there and only there we find the promise of Isaiah:18:

"Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.

The precious blood of Christ cleanses us from all our transgressions, no matter how high they number, or how low they bring us down.

...Eliana spoke of a life filled with sin. Shameful remorse creased her once expressionless face. Tears flowed freely as she spoke openly, confessing a life she now wanted to leave behind. I explained to Eliana that her sin was not beyond Jesus’s redemptive blood, that no matter what her past had been, God loved her and wanted her to receive the Grace of salvation.

"God would not let me walk past you today, Eliana, without talking to you. What does that tell you?"

"He loves me...and still remembers me. Yes, I would like to receive Jesus in my life...please."

I told Eliana something that I’ve told many others while on mission trips. I told her we probably would never see each other this world. But, someday, we’ll both be in heaven because of what she’d received that afternoon.
"And when that glorious day of rejoicing comes, you come find me, we will celebrate."

During the crusade in Goiania, 2731 made commitments to Christ. That afternoon, in a women’s rehab clinic, God allowed me to witness one of those confessions of faith. It was an experience that I’ll never forget. Thanks to the many who prayed for the trip. Thanks to my international coworkers, Americans, Brazilians, and Paraguayans who served alongside me. But mostly, I give thanks to a great God that gave me the opportunity to meet so many wonderful Eliana.

Yes, we shall meet again, my new sister!