Category Archive: Justice

post by carolnl | | Closed

New Year’s Dreams

Happy New Year! What hopes and dreams do you have for the year ahead?

One I suspect we all share is that Omicron deals with those who get it in a more gentle manner than have Covid-19 and Delta. We pray that this pandemic will come to an end this year. I look forward to not wearing a mask; to being less isolated and spending more time with family and friends (although we’ve been blessed to have some significant times together this year despite the pandemic). To going out to an evening of dinner, a movie, the theater, church, a party again with a sense of freedom.

Hondurans dealing with the aftermath of significant flooding and destruction of infrastructure

Beyond that hope, dreams become both corporate and individual. Do we want more–more profits, more stuff, better furniture, fancier cars, more of whatever makes us feel good about ourselves? These aren’t necessarily bad. But there are so many who have significantly less than we do here in America. And while there are enormous needs here, areas of deep poverty as well as those wracked by hurricanes, floods, and the seven tornadoes in Kentucky on New Years’ Day.

One way to address these needs is to give where we can. Organizations like World Vision (worldvision.org), Samaritans’ Purse (samaritanspurse.org), and MCC (Mennonite Central Committee, MCC.org) address needs for food, medicine, and education in poverty-stricken or hard-hit areas around the world. My brother, Arnold, has become involved with Living Water World Missions (livingwaterworldmissions.org), who focus on clean water, education, and relationships with Jesus. They say over one billion people lack clean water, and about 1.5 million children will die this year from preventable water-born illnesses.

According to the World Bank, the United States had a GNI (Gross National Income per capita) of $64,610 in 2020.

  • Bolivia has a per capita GNI of $3,200
  • Mexico, $18,170
  • Sub Saharan Africa, $3,005
  • And of the Sub Saharan nations, Burundi has a GNI of only $700. And that’s an average in each country, so we know there are people who have significantly greater, as well as significantly lesser, resources.

Many churches and organizations offer opportunities to go on short-term service projects to help build, serve those in need, and understand the significant needs faced by others. And we can pray for the many in other lands who suffer from hunger, persecution, dirty water, war, and tribal infighting.

Don leading a work crew at RSM with Geronimo

For ten years before Covid hit, Don traveled with a group to Rancho Santa Marta (ranchosantamarta.org) where he managed building projects, from a small medical/dental facility for visiting physicians and dentists, to part of a new gym used for their school of about 250 children, part of the high school addition to the school, and a home for the most severely disabled, older boys who live on the premises. I joined him nine of those ten years and we learned to love the staff and children, orphans, children who had been removed from their homes due to violence and severe learning disabilities. Victor, who just turned 46, has spent almost all his life at the Ranch, and will stay there for its remainder. Teenage Cassandra, who didn’t speak when I first met her, is now talking, even raising her hand to ask for prayer or share a praise in their worship service. You can read more about the Ranch in my 2019 blogpost at https://carolshope.com/2019/05/back-to-the-ranch/

I love this scripture from the prophet Micah.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8 NIV

Sounds simple, doesn’t it. But it takes courage to speak up for injustice; to express mercy, and to learn what it means to walk humbly with our God. I plan to focus on this scripture more during the year ahead, asking where God wants me to get on board with work He is doing around the world and in my own neighborhood.

May God richly bless you and yours in the new year; and may you rejoice in His blessings as you share them with others.

The Judge

We sat on our couch, watching courtroom proceedings on zoom for seven hours.

It was sentencing day. The jury had already declared the defendant guilty. But both sides’ attorneys, as well as the perpetrator and the victims of his fraud were allowed to raise objections or make statements of his impact on our lives.

The Judge was consistently patient, listening to all sides. He treated each of us, including the defendant, with courtesy and respect. We were never felt rushed or like we were wasting the Court’s time. The Judge carefully expressed the rationale behind his decision to overrule or uphold each objection.

The trial has dragged on for four long years and four months. Along with quite a few others, Don and I were victims of the defendant’s fraud. We were all eager to put this behind us and move on. Some victims lost their life savings, pensions, and went into debt because they believed in the cause this man represented. Due to the stress of the fraud and trial, several probably died earlier than they would have otherwise.

We were blessed not to have fallen for “F’s” schemes longer than we did.

Even when handing down his sentence, the Judge spoke to the defendant with compassion. “You’re an intelligent man, and have done some positive things. I don’t know where it went wrong for you that made you choose to do what you did.”

BUT … the law was clear. He chose to go another way and has to pay the consequences for his crime.

We were very touched by one victim’s testimony. An articulate young man, he spoke of God’s forgiveness and desire for “F” to repent and seek forgiveness. He forgave “F,” but encouraged the Judge to give the maximum sentence in light of the loss, pain, illness, and suffering “F” put on so many.

It reminded me that one day we will each stand before the King of Kings, the fair and just Judge of all mankind. He has already provided forgiveness … but He gives us the choice of whether or not to receive it.

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.”

John 3:16-17

God won’t ask how much we gave to this charity or that, or what good deeds we did. In love and grace, God has provided the way through Jesus’ death, resurrection, and offer of forgiveness and new life to each of us. Our choice is whether or not to receive it.

And our eternity will be based on that answer.

And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.

I John 5:11-12

My only answer to the King of Kings is “I’m here with Jesus, who died and rose again that I might have life eternal.”

Questions? I’d love to talk with you.

post by carolnl | | Closed

FINDING HOPE

In Finding Hope: Steps toward Racial Reconciliation, Pastor Hurmon Hamilton taught from the story of Lazarus in John chapter 11.

Three keys he mentioned from this story were:

  1. Listen graciously. So often we listen while we’re preparing our response, whether it’s defending our own actions, justifying certain behaviors, or even agreeing with what we’re hearing. Jesus listened to Lazarus’ sisters who both bared their hearts, saying “If you’d only been here, our brother would not have died.” Jesus didn’t rebuke them; rather, He wept with them.
  2. Reflect prayerfully. What is our God-led response to what we hear (rather than our knee-jerk reaction)? Jesus saw the sisters’ pain, and that of the mourners, and was “greatly troubled.” He asked “Where have you laid Him?” The mourners didn’t just point the way – they said “Come and see.” And He went with them.
  3. Act thoughtfully. John 11:38-39 says “Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb … Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.'” Martha, never one to hold her tongue, said but Lord, he’s been dead four days. Surely he stinks by now!

Jesus spoke to His Father, then cried out loudly, “Lazarus, come forth.” And Lazarus, wrapped in graveclothes, bound and stiff, walked out of the tomb. Jesus told the watchers to take the graveclothes off the man, because he was no longer dead, but alive!

I hate what’s happening in our country now. The riots, looting, violence, burning Bibles and flags. I’ve never experienced such a divisive time in my lifetime.

And no, we’re not each responsible for the racial injustices we see in our world. But as Christ-followers it is our moment to stand up and show the world who we are in Jesus.

And there are many reasons to listen, to reflect prayerfully, and to act thoughtfully. I have not experienced the systemic racism that instituted Jim Crow laws, that led to the formation of the Ku Klux Klan, that gave higher-interest mortgages–or none–to persons of color, because I am Caucasian. But my heart goes out to those who have been unfairly treated and given less opportunity simply because of the color of their melanin.

I want to follow Jesus’ example. Pastor Hamilton suggested asking our brothers and sisters to tell us their story of being African American in America–and listening!

If you’d like to hear the entire sermon, follow this link. I think you’ll be challenged and encouraged as Don and I were.

What Does God Require of Us (Concerning Racism)

I expect many of us have wrestled this week with the question “What can I do to help root out racism and heal our land?” Our pastor, Tim Wood of Evergreen Valley Church in San Jose, wrote a post this week that I thought gave wise encouragement about what is required of us. With his permission, I am reposting his words here.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 ESV)

 But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously. (Micah 6:8 The MSG)

 3,000 years later, and these words from Micah are still relevant and powerful. These words are simple to read and challenging to live out.

What does the LORD (Yahweh) require of us? Only this, to do justice, to love people loyally and to remain humble before our God.

This is the spirit I hope you will live out in your heart and home and in our church and before our community. We cannot be a church that is true to the demands of the Gospel if we don’t act justly. We aren’t true to the Gospel if we don’t act to root out racism in the structures of our society and church. We do justice when we give all human beings their due as creations of God. We cannot achieve personal holiness if we don’t love our neighbors with steadfast love. The love and compassion of Jesus means I respect all human beings.

Only if we do these things can we expect to walk humbly with our God. For God is a God of love and justice, a God who made us all in His image. Racism is a denial of that truth. It’s an offense against God.

We know that racism exists in our culture, my prayer is that it will not continue to exist in the church. We can’t be a light that shines in the darkness, if there is darkness in our heart. We lose supernatural witness when we allow sin to abide in us. We can’t walk humbly before our God with a prideful attitude.

Dr. Tony Evans says, “It’s time for a reset in our culture. It’s time to reverse the curse of racism.” Dr. Evans makes it clear that change starts with individuals. It doesn’t start with a group, it starts with me; with you. Change my heart, O God. Change the way I think and see.

It’s practiced in your family. Transfer the godly values of justice and love to your children. Do this by reaching out and serving other people who are different than you. When changes happen in individual hearts and in family life, it brings change to the church. We can become that city set on a hill that Jesus called us to be.

What is good and what does the Lord require of me during this time of racial tension? To do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly before with your God.

Let’s pray together: Lord, our hearts are heavy. Open our eyes to see what You see. Open our ears to hear what You hear. Let me see every person the way You see them. Let your love flow from us like a mighty river. Let justice roll like waters. May love and justice start with me. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Note from Carol: Thank you Pastor Tim.

Readers, I welcome your thoughts on ways we can do justice and love mercy.