Sep 12 2014

A Curve-ball in the Rough

So I’m doing a pretty good job keeping up with our annual Bible reading plan. But I’m not boasting . . . I’m just leveling with you: I’m in Ezekiel. Ezekiel is a TOUGH section to stick through. Isaiah and Jeremiah are pretty long and intense books, but then to hoof it through 48 more chapters of primarily gloom and doom . . . it’s a difficult part of the yearly readings, for sure.

Sometimes I find myself skimming in order to power through a section in order to just check off another day. Oftentimes while doing this, I’ll sniff a curve-ball under the chin that I never saw coming (forgive the metaphor if you don’t like baseball). One such convicting surprise happened just the other day.

In my life context, I’m gearing up for a sermon and small group series aimed at better equipping us evangelistically. So I get to Ezekiel 33 & 34. Here the Lord calls Ezekiel a “watchman” of Israel who is told to warn the people of coming disaster. If he is faithful to warn and the people do not prepare, then the guilt is on their heads. But if the watchman fails to warn and the people are destroyed, though they may have been deserving of the punishment, the watchman will be help partially responsible.

Similarly in the next chapter, the Lord warns against shepherds who feed themselves, and yet do NOT feed the sheep, strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, bring back the straying, or seek out the lost. In light of this, there is a great promise that God will be the shepherd for his people and will seek out and provide for them.

In these two pictures, I couldn’t help but see a profound call to action for believers. Christ has commissioned us to be “watchmen”, to be “shepherds”, and to exhibit our faith through care for the marginalized, the needy, and the not-yet believers. Please join me in praying for our faith family as we take on this focus to be equipped and inspired toward more missional living. Pray that we will receive the call with surrendered hearts, and pray that God will raise up workers for His harvest from among us. I’m excited about the season that is spreading out before us. Will you join me in running toward what God has in store for us?!?


Dec 7 2012

Advent: the Saviour still comes

This post is from a friend of mine at C!C, Joel Oosterman, reflecting on issues incredibly close to his heart and personal mission.  As well, issues that are close to the heart of C!C as well.  Joel is helping us know more about how we can make a difference and is inspiring us to get there.  Thanks Joel.

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I grew up unaware of Advent however this year our family (Kristy, Bekah, Annika & I) will take part in this tradition for the first time. In order to prepare for this, I took some time to examine the history and meaning of Advent. (BTW you can download a free Advent book here http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/good-news-of-great-joy-free-advent-ebook)

Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, which happened to be December 2 this year, and ends on Christmas Eve (December 24). It is important to note that Advent is not based on any biblical mandate. Rather, Advent is a tradition that has developed over the past 2000 years and allows Christians to celebrate the arrival of Christ and ‘the fulfillment of the promises God made’ beyond the 24 hours of December 25.

Another source described Advent as marked by ‘a spirit of expectation, of anticipation, of preparation, of longing … It is the cry of those who have experienced the tyranny of injustice in a world under the curse of sin, and yet who have hope of deliverance by a God who has heard the cries of oppressed slaves and brought deliverance!’

Simply put, Advent celebrates the arrival of the One who brought good news and came to rescue and redeem. As Christ said at the beginning of his ministry, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”

Advent is a time for great joy, yet we must also be cognizant that the need for deliverance from oppression remains urgent. Modern day slavery is not hard to find if you know what to look for. Last weekend Kristy and I were in Sosua, a small town in the Dominican Republic where sex tourism (adult and child) is business as usual. I took Kristy down one of the main streets littered with bars, restaurants and night clubs. Even though it was only 11am exploitation was still easy to spot. Here and there we observed older white men hand in hand with young Dominican or Haitian girls, some looking as young as 14 years old. At night, this area is bursting with white men seeking to exploit and enslave.

Yet while exploitation happens to be more visible in Sosua (as it is in many underdeveloped countries), slavery and sexual exploitation exists in every part of the globe. Men, women and children are being crushed by the weight of this injustice.

I am still surprised at the indifference and apathy that continues to pervade the issue of slavery. A few days ago, Kristy was sitting at a pool talking to a couple. The discussion, as it often does, led to human trafficking and slavery. At this point the man shared that he knew about slavery because he had a friend who wrote a book on human trafficking. He knew about the site SlaveryFootprint.org where you can find out how many slaves ‘work’ for you after completing a survey. Then he said “With all these slaves that apparently work for me, I felt like pharaoh and should have them here to cool me off.” I assume he saw the look of shock on Kristy’s face and followed up with, “If you can’t joke about slavery then what can you joke about.” This man was well aware of the reality of slavery yet gave no thought to flippant comments about oppression. The challenges in the fight against slavery are psychological as much as physical.

But there is hope and deliverance. The efforts to fight against this injustice have been incredible over the past few years and continue to grow. While we celebrate Advent as the coming of the Saviour, we can also celebrate that today He raises up people to serve on the front lines of the fight against slavery and oppression. These courageous and dedicated abolitionists face many challenges every day, such as physical danger, psychological burdens, exhaustion, anxiety, and one that is especially discouraging … indifference.  They also have families and loved ones that they are often separated from for long periods of times.

The season of Advent is upon us again, and Christians throughout the world have different ways of celebrating Advent. If you are celebrating Advent, consider incorporating the issue of slavery and redemption into your traditions. I would encourage you to take time to pray for those who are taking on slavery in a full-time capacity. Send a note of encouragement or gratitude to these individuals. Also, take time to pray for the survivors that these anti trafficking organizations are reaching out to. Survivors are horrifically abused and have long term challenges on their road to recovery.

Here are just a few suggestions of people and NGOs that you can pray for, support, and share with others beginning with one right here in the Dominican Republic.

 

Chantz & Renee Cutts

Here in Sosua, there is a great organization called GO Mad Ministries, started by Chantz and Renee Cutts. They are fighting back against exploitation by providing opportunity, dignity and hope to exploited individuals and communities through job training, education, safe housing, counseling, medical care, discipleship etc. You can learn more about them and their work here:http://www.gomadministries.org/

MP Joy Smith http://www.joysmithfoundation.com/

Jamie McIntosh and the team at IJM Canada – http://www.ijm.ca/

Brian McConaghy and the team at Ratanak International – http://www.ratanak.org/

Timea Nagy and the team at Walk With Me – http://www.walk-with-me.org/

Natasha Falle and the team at Sextrade 101 – http://www.sextrade101.com/

Law enforcement officers

Again, these are but a few of the many courageous abolitionists and anti-slavery NGOS. Please also take time to look into who is fighting slavery in your area locally, nationally and internationally.

With anticipation of redemption and freedom,

Joel