Thursday, June 20, 2013

He is Holy

Dear friends, we continue our coverage of Compassion International's Blogging Trip to Nicaragua.

Day two posts were not up when I began writing, so today I present a message from the Lord himself. Yes, I'm pretty sure I heard His voice.

As I mentioned yesterday, the bloggers visited the trash dump where families forage for hours digging through trash, hoping to find recyclables worth less than $1 a day. One of the trip bloggers, Edie from Life in Grace, wrote:
"I was so haunted by the metaphor of this trash heap, by the decay, the smell and the hopelessness of it all. This is what separation from Christ feels like. This is Gehenna. This is hell on earth."
Man was created in the image of God. We were precious to Him, even as we smelt of decaying trash. While we were sinners, Christ died for us. He didn't ask us to leave the trash dump and get cleaned up first.

We were that precious; He loved us at our worst. Life itself was that precious to Him.

And it should be precious to us. Love your neighbor as yourself, saith the Lord. Whatever we need, we should also desire for our neighbor.

In light of this, what does God think about the trash dump and all the foragers who must work there?

He is grieved. 

And angry, too? Is God angry at these circumstances?

My goal when presenting world poverty is to season every post with gentleness and humility. I'm not there yet and that bothers me; the posts don't seem gentle, but rather preachy.

Okay, really preachy.

I prayed to God that I'd do a better job with this tonight. My mind contemplated it all day, through the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, the bandaids, the laundry, the baths.

My dilemma is this: there are two sides to God's character. To present truth, then, is to present both sides of who He is.

He loves us inexplicably. He's gentle, gracious, forgiving, warm, comforting. He's given us beautiful, life-giving prose in Psalms and solid wisdom in Proverbs. So many gifts and so much glory and beauty flow from Him and through Him.

That is one side of God--the side of Him that loves us, sustains us and redeems us.

The other side of His character has to do with His Holiness. This is a side often ignored, to our detriment.

For example, I have a relative visiting for the Fourth of July who professes to be a Christian, but is living with someone, out of wedlock. This is not a problem for her; she seems happy in fact.

Is she really a Christian? Were we fooled all this time? We knew she held liberal stances on many issues but this lifestyle change was still a shock. And now we have a responsibility, as fellow Christians, to redirect her, gently, during the visit. It would be more comfortable to ignore the sin, but we can't. We must give her the truth of the Word and remind her that she can't pick and choose what she likes from the Bible, because a Holy God demands obedience.

A Holy God possesses wrath.

Random House Webster College Dictionary has this to say about wrath: 1. stern or fierce anger; deep indignation; ire 2. vengeance or punishment as the result of anger.

I know better than to tell you if you spend too much on yourself and don't have any left to help the poor, God's vengeance will get you. This wouldn't help you want to change.

I can't change any hearts...not even my own. A new heart is a work of grace alone.

But I can remind you, and myself, that there are two sides to God's character. His Holy side will hold us accountable on Judgement Day for how we've spent the money that was His to begin with. And for how we've spent our time, which also is his. Since the Cross bought and paid for us, our time is not our own. Our life is not our own.

The Bible says we must help the poor. Like my wayward relative, we can't pick and choose what we'd like to obey in the Word.

Obedience in this area may mean no more salon-colored hair. Steak only once a month. Clothes from the thrift store. No new patio furniture. No kiddy pool for the kids. No vacation. Whatever.

The point is, this part of the Word must be dealt with in a sacrificial way. The heart of God in these scriptures is that we sacrifice for each other...that we live the gospel. If the $38 dollars a month to sponsor a child doesn't change your life much, then it isn't a sacrifice and it isn't enough. We give until it hurts to say thank you to God. Because we want to see Him glorified. Because we love Him.

Do you pray the scriptures? The Bible is God telling us: this is the path I want you to take. But we don't automatically get there; we are weak. We can't do it without asking for a change of heart. We have to pray the scriptures.

So let's pray:

Dear Heavenly Father, we love you. Thank you for saving us in our filth. Give us a burden for the poor, Lord. Give us the righteous stance you desire for our hearts. Help us spend less and give more. Help us give until it hurts so we can become more like you. Change the way we view money and time so that we see them as gifts to give away, not entitlements to cling to. Open our fists, Lord. Help us to see beyond our own desires. May we have the faith to act on your Word, knowing our daily bread is secure if we seek first your righteousness. We want to please you, live for you, glorify you. We want to reflect you to a child in need. I pray that each person reading, and my own family, finds room in our hearts for a first, or an additional, sponsor child. Take away every form of evil in our hearts that would prevent us from clicking Sponsor a child. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.

God is faithful, friend. If you've never sponsored before, this prayer is the first step. Cling tight to God's promises and let him renovate your heart. In no time you'll be running to your mailbox looking for a Compassion envelope that says: Message from your sponsored child.

That sentence will come to mean sheer joy to you, believe me. Obedience brings joy.

Sponsor a child here.

Follow all the blog posts from the week's trip here

View all the photos from the week here.

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