You are the light of the world...
"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16 ESV
Today marks Episode 40 of our podcast. Once a week for 18 months, with a few weeks off here and there, people have shared their stories and opinions on Noisy Narratives. The testimonies of God's goodness and loving kindness, as well as the fierce resiliency of his human creation, are humbling. I am constantly in awe of God's creativity and sovereignty.
Story after story reminds me of how God's purposes are not my own, and how we do not know his ways. I cannot fathom the love of God or understand his perfect motives. The little ways God demonstrates his love for us even in our hurting and helplessness is both motivating on one hand and frustrating on the other. Motivating us each day to learn and grow, but frustrating our humanness because we just want God to FIX everything already.
We forget in our need for instant gratification that God's plan is not ours, or as I would tell my kids, "You want heaven now, but that's not what we get here. It's time now for patience." One of them would pipe up - "But when are we done with patience?!" I'd laugh and say, "When you ACTUALLY get to HEAVEN." It's an ongoing joke in our house. My husband loves it because he is all about delayed gratification and not getting our material desires met just because we want something. So, I end up running out of patience with him and my kids point the finger and laugh - HAH! Well, I would much rather apply truths to others and not myself.
It's all well and good when I'm learning "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23) with the every day "easy lessons" like learning how to wait for something I want or taking care of my family. But what about the truly awful, darkest of the dark, vilest of the vile, evils of the world? The stuff I would rather not face as I'm shopping in Target or filling up my dented minivan at RaceTrac? How do we respond when we learn there is cruelty and abuse all around us? Does that knowledge require something of us more than our current life gives?
Quick answer - yes. Obviously.
The deeper answer is more specific to us as individuals and motivated by something other than knowledge.
Every Christian receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. A blessing of supernatural peace and love so unnatural as to be baffling to those outside of God's church. The world is not comfortable, it is constantly putting uncomfortable truths in front of us. People, God's creation, muck things up on a daily basis. There is pure evil in the world and those we love are often caught up in it. There is selfishness, power and lust, and when man or woman act to fulfill their desires driven by those feelings the results are hurt and suffering.
Sometimes suffering is obvious, other times we have to intentionally look for it under the veneer of daily life. But make no mistake, suffering is all around us. So much so we are tempted to look around and wonder, "How is this Good?"
Well, this world was good. Genesis 1:31, "And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good." But alas, woman and man utilized their God-given freewill to make this world not good. Time after time humans demonstrate how much they need God, and how their decisions apart from Him are fatal.
God, however, is STILL good. (Psalm 25:8; Psalm 145:9; James 1:17). Mark 10:18 says, "No one is good but One, that is, God." A human depiction of God's goodness is found in his son, Jesus. And Jesus uses words and deeds to model human interaction with the world that is good. One example - Sermon on the Mount.
The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is incredibly rich and full of loving direction for Christians. Every time I read it, it's like God is gently reminding me of a greater purpose for myself as a believer, and an even larger vision for His Church. Blessings for the poor, the grief-stricken, the hurting, the hungry, the merciful and the pure of heart flow from the Biblical pages. In a world where might and sharpness of tongue are lauded as positive attributes, where money and power are considered measures of success, Jesus' words demonstrate the fruitlessness of those things in light of his glory.
Blessed are the poor in spirit ... for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn ... for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek ... for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness ... for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful ... for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart ... for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers ... for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake ... for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:2-10)
Jesus cared mightily for the suffering of others. His heart for the poor, the hurting, the abused, the sick and the marginalized scandalized the wealthy and powerful. He saved women from stoning (John 8:7), he gives a Biblical mandate for caring for the poor (Matthew 25), he chose unpopular men as his friends (Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:13; Luke 5:27-32; Matthew 11), and he healed the sick (Matthew 9:35; Mark 16:18). The example Jesus' left here on earth is one of action, of using resources available to help those less fortunate than ourselves. Christians study and worship Jesus...why?
We are not God, we are not the son of God, we cannot possibly be everything Jesus is. To try to BE Jesus is frustrating and impossible. That is not what God asks of us. God asks us "to walk in the same manner as He walked," 1 John 2:6. Follow the model, walk as he walked, care for others as Jesus cared for them. Keep our eyes open and respond with mercy, goodness, kindness, love, peace and joy and self-control. The Holy Spirit will not allow complacency, Jesus' did not leave us with a model of apathy, and God did not leave us alone with our mission.
We are a part of God's Church. We share burdens, and care for the hurting in the world alongside one another. There are people who need God's church; the abused, the poor, the sick, the orphans, and those who cannot care for themselves. God's church is all over the world, the Holy Spirit is active in the heart's and minds of those God calls to act when someone is hurting.
ALL of us who are Christians are called to act in some way to help others. It is HOW we act that is different and dependent on how God moves in our hearts. However, it is up to each of us to listen and to remember day to day there are people in the world who need our help.
The next few weeks at Noisy Narratives we are focusing on Human Trafficking Awareness month and interviewing individuals involved in different aspects of this issue. Today we sit down with Rebecca Jowers, founder of Poiema Foundation. Poiema "educates the public and raises awareness in order to prevent sexual abuse, sex trafficking, and other methods of sexual exploitation." They also facilitate the restoration journey of survivors and provide resources for helping men, women and children through recovery.
This podcast is both informative and at times uncomfortable. It is difficult to listen to how such evil exists in the world. However, it is also encouraging because there are people working hard to walk in the manner Jesus' walked and save victims from the abuse of sex trafficking. There are ways for all of us to share this burden together. We hope you gain knowledge and are encouraged in ways God's church can respond to this issue.
We love and appreciate all of you, and know God has a purpose for our ministry and for those who read and listen to our blog and podcast.
Listen to today's Podcast with Rebecca Jowers here.
Galatians 6:2, "Bear on another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."
2 Corinthians 1:3-4, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."