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Friday, May 16, 2008

Red Letters campaign - A Very Important Dinner Date

We had our dinner with Pastor Surefel. The leaders of Grafted tree had been praying and hoping that the meeting would be fruitful and God didn't disappoint. We were able to get some clear direction on how to help Pastor Surefel.

We were blessed to listen to the man speak as all the adults gathered around our large dining and sat in front of piles of food. Italian sausage, two HUGE pans of lasagna, garlic bread, bruscetta, a huge salad and dessert. I had to wonder about how it must burden Pastor Surefel to see such a spread I wondered if every time he saw such abundance his mind wandered back to the kids in his orphanage barely getting two meals a day. He shared with us that most Ethiopians get meat once or twice a year. They had been trying to feed the children in his care meat every 15 days but they had to cut that off due to insufficient funds.

Surefel told stories of the children and what has happened to them, of his call to care for the orphans one faithful day. He spoke of wanting to give up at times and feeling like he couldn't go on. He spoke of God's provision and his hope for the children. He told us that just having us to talk with about his burden helped him. It was then that I wanted to drop down to my knees in tears. He said he didn't care if he even got anything from us, that it was just enough to know that we care about the kids. Then he followed that statement up with telling us that for the children that are adopted and come to the US their life is being plucked up out of hell on earth. That humbled me.

All night I was chewing on the truth that I have been born into this generation such as this for a reason. Often times throughout my life I have looked at myself and said that there wasn't anything of particular importance about me, nothing extraordinary. That is true in some part. Except when I take into account my extreme personal wealth compared to world standards of living. My wealth is extraordinary in the eyes of the rest of the world. My access to information, education, opportunity and health care are extremely important to the rest of the world! I was struck by Surefel's comment about how we should not compare our poor in the US to the poor of Ethiopia. I know what he meant. I know he speaks of a poverty few American can comprehend, even the most down trodden of the US society.

My mind has been churning over and over again with the image of being placed shoulder to shoulder in a line with women from around the world standing in front of God Almighty. I, personally cannot fathom how I will stand before Him and justify not helping others in need both locally and abroad. To whom much has been given much will be DEMANDED. (see Luke 12:47 & 48). Why do we think that will be?..........It's haunting me. I can't continue to live like I've been blessed this much merely for my own benefit, that such excesses has been given to me for me alone to consume.

We in the US need these wake up calls to get our position in life into perspective. It's easy to become isolated in our culture of materialism and grow ever more dissatisfied with life. We 'average joe's and jane's' in the US need to realize there is nothing average about our lifestyle. We are the world's elite, not because we are superior in character or anything of the sort, but because we, like nobility have a crown of wealth, health and leisure laid upon our heads.

God help me for the years I've wasted and for the carelessness I've lived my life with at times. I am utterly knocked off my feet at my ability to sin and be ungrateful for all that I have. Surely I have every reason to praise the Lord for all his gifts in my life. My prayer is that God would change me and turn me away from my selfishness.

The problem is that it's not just me or my family alone. You can agree or not, but the truth is that the church in the US is fat and lazy. Why else would we have our own poor here among us. Why don't we have more outraches for the poor in our congregations? Is it because our faith is weak and our appetite for more is a disease that squelches the fire of the Holy Spirit in our lives?

We act like our gifts are so holy, like we give so much. We bring in the tithe and our offerings (well, some of us anyway. Others don't really see the need to honor God in such a way at all) and we build these monstrosities we call churches with every lavish amenitie you can dream up. We desire to reach others for Christ and God blesses us in spite of ourselves by bringing new believers in BUT we need to check our hearts and our motivations. Are these mega-awesome churches serving others TRULY? Would we pass the test or owuld all our best efforts be burned in the fire?

We must ask ourselves: Are we not beneficiaries in all this? Are not our "sacrifices" barely sacrifices at all? I have a nagging feeling more and more these days that the church is feeding the addiction of the culture. We can't even see that we, the church, are just as entangled and ensnared by materialism and the 'world' outside. I ask you where is the line of demarcation!?

I am sick over it but I have no answers just the same. These are just the questions I have in my heart. I don't expect everyone to agree. We all gotta run our own races. I don't expect every church to stop their building or growth campaigns and give all the funds to a third world country. I am just asking myself the hard questions about where I am supposed to serve and GIVE and SACRIFICE. It seems to have finally dawned on me that I have been given so much. I just want to be a good steward. Not so others can look at me and say, "aw, that jen she's such a good person" but because I LOVE JESUS. And, because a man named Surefel sat at my dining room table and told me the stories of how Jesus is starving and naked and suffering on the streets of Addis Ababa (not to mention countless other cities around the US and the world)

Matthew 25:31-46

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he
will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered
before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd
separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the
goats on his left.

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed
by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the
creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was
thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me
in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I
was in prison and you came to visit me.'

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry
and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a
stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see
you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of
the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are
cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was
hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to
drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you
did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after

"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a
stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help

"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of
the least of these, you did not do for me.'

"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal


Sherry said...

Jen - Wow! Thank you for this post. The Lord has really been laying this message on my heart lately. Just last night as my husband and I lay in bed, I said the only reason we don't do more is because we are selfish and scared (more emphasis on selfish). Thank you for saying it like it is!

Sherry Semlow

Kim said...

wow girl just wow I have nothing to say but wow. Gary has been quoting this verse to me as well it must be something that is laid on our hearts for such a time as this.