The Road to Justice Begins at a Stop Sign

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Have you ever broken a bone? I have. When I was 11 or 12 years old I broke a finger playing in what was likely a fierce game of handball. Yes you read that correctly. I was one of the cool kids who played handball in elementary school.

The thing with breaks is, they need to be reset to the way they were designed so they may mend and heal properly.

When I first learned of the realities of modern day slavery, it felt like a bad break. How could things be so off set, out of order, out of place and in desperate need of healing and resetting? I felt a burning rage boil up in my gut and an overwhelming desire to barge into a brothel or brick kiln to rescue the oppressed and give the oppressor a piece of my mind, or, let’s be honest, my once broken middle finger gesture.

Have you felt it too? Have you felt the burn of wanting to do more, wanting to set things right, to mend, to heal, to seek justice?

The truth is, the reality and pain and brokenness associated with modern day slavery is completely overwhelming. This is why it is vital, we begin with the One who is the beginning and the end of all things. We must stop and intentionally seek the One who holds all things together, both the things in Heaven and things on the Earth. We must approach the Great Physician, the Healer and the Hope of the world before taking one iota of a step towards freedom for another.

Because without the Lord mercifully fueling our efforts we simply cannot sustain our passions for justice and freedom for the long haul. And this work of justice, it demands the long haul. Burn out is inevitable, if done by our own accord. Our efforts, while good, are futile without the strength of the Spirit of God fanning the flame to persevere. The work of freedom is not for the faint of heart.

As a marathon runner would never consider starting a race without fueling up on food and water to sustain the duration of the race, we have been created to fuel up on the Spirit of God to sustain us throughout a life lived in a very broken, desolate world, where something as vile as slavery holds captive more individuals today than the total of those enslaved during the horrific trans-Atlantic slave trade.

What do we do? Where do we start? How do we seek God first in all things and find our rest in Him when the state of the world resembles an all-night out of control rave party with a tornado of chaos reeking havoc around ever corner?

The starting place is often the most startling place. The starting line in the race for justice begins at a stop sign. It begins with slowing, with stopping, with resting and with remembering who God is and what His plan for justice is. The first step is to take no step at all and to recognize the One who is able to heal and free has been at work from the beginning of time and will continue His redemption and restorative work long after our days have passed. Nothing gets by Him unnoticed and in His supremacy He rules and reigns the world above all else.

He is our source. He is living water, the author of life and it’s only by His design and command, we utter the very breath we breathe. It only makes sense then that our lifeline is found in Him, the sustainer of our lives and the sustainer of the call on our lives.

Phew! The pressure is off! You and I don’t have to carry the burden and weight and heaviness of modern day slavery by our own efforts and by our individual strength.

I’m a full-time working professional with a demanding job, wife to a very busy husband and mom to a threenager. Stopping to do anything at all – even to sleep – often feels counter intuitive. It’s certainly counter-cultural. The struggle is real isn’t it? I get it. And yet, as Mother Theresa said, “Everything starts with prayer.”

In Jeremiah 29, we read a letter Jeremiah wrote for the Israelite’s who were in exile in Babylon. You probably know the well versed part of the letter that reads, “I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and to not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I take comfort in what comes next. “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Jesus would later say things like, “seek the Kingdom of God first and all these things will be added to you” and “remain in me and I will remain in you.”

This work of justice – of setting brokenness right – is the Lord’s work. It’s the very work He sacrificed Himself for. And it’s the very work He is in the process of restoring for all eternity. Like a good and loving dad always wants to be near his children, God out of His love bubbled over, deeply yearns to have all His children near to Him, to remain in Him and to be known in Him. Therefore, when we stop and take the time to really know Him, it changes everything. By His love we are compelled to love the world around us.

To love God and to love our neighbor always starts with spending time with God. This is the work of justice. This is Sabbath. There is a stop sign where brokenness ends and the road to justice begins.

January is human trafficking awareness month. Wouldn’t it be earth shattering if the global family of God spent every moment available in prayer for the enslaved, for change of heart of the oppressors and for all men and women to find their breaks mended and healed in Jesus, including our own? Now that’s an overwhelming thought I can live with!

Be blessed!

For further reading and help with keeping sabbath and seeking justice, check out Bethany Hoang’s book, Deepening the Soul for Justice. It’s 40 pages are packed with helpful insight, encouragement and hope as together, we seek the God of justice.

Family Champion

Recently I had to travel for work and missed my family terribly.  It was only for a few days but I longed to be home with my husband and our son Justice.

I believe this longing for home and family is inherited from God. The Bible shows us, story upon story, God is a good and loving Father who has gone to extreme lengths to be near His kids.

In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve walk out of the flourishing garden and life God created for them because they made the devastating choice to decide for themselves, independent of God their Father, what was good and evil in their own eyes. But God knew they would make this choice to severe their dependence solely on Him. He had a way to bring them back to Himself once again. Nothing would keep His children away from His love and presence forever.

The Old Testament is brimming with stories of God chasing after His kids, walking with them through the struggles of life and ultimately drawing them back to Him.

God’s pursuit of His children is called mission. Mission is the redemptive work of God. It’s also a participatory word. The redeemed followers of Jesus – those who’ve acknowledged their need for Him and accepted His free gift of grace – make God’s mission known and lead others into experiencing it by how they love those around them.

The mission of God is illustrated throughout the Biblical narrative. One example is found in the Exodus story. Throughout 400 years of grueling captivity, God heard the cries of His enslaved children, the Israelite’s. He responded by empowering Moses to speak up for the Israelite’s and free them from the hand of Pharaoh.  God didn’t stop there.  He used Moses and Joshua to lead the people to the Promised Land; a vibrant and flourishing land flowing with milk and honey. The Exodus and Promised Land stories point to the story of Jesus and the redemption, freedom and life of flourishing He freely gave through His life, death and resurrection.

The first mention of God as redeemer is found in Exodus 6:6. “Therefore, say to the Israelite’s: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.’”

The Hebrew word for redeemer is go’el. Christopher J. H. Wright writes, “A go’el was any member within a wider family group upon whom fell the duty of acting to protect the interests of the family or another member in it who was in particular need. The term might be translated, ‘kinsman protector’ or ‘family champion.’”

The Israelite’s would have understood go’el – God’s rescue from slavery and His redemption of them – to be a family matter. The God of the Israelite’s would act as their family champion and provide freedom and flourishing out of His overflowing love for them.

Upon miraculously crossing the Red Sea and securing safety from oppressive Pharaoh, Moses and Miriam burst into song for the God who protected and championed them to freedom with these words:

In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.” Exodus 15:13

God was go’el for the nation of Israel. He brought them out of slavery, captivity and oppression. He rescued them from political unrest. He avenged their oppressor Pharaoh. Years later, Jesus, the personification of the same God who was go’el for the Israelite’s, became go’el for the entire world. He is the “family champion” for God’s global family and He leads the way to a holy dwelling with God. As the Redeemer of the world, Jesus took on the mission of God to protect, defend and rescue, especially those enslaved, under threat, experiencing loss of all kinds, poverty, hunger, persecution, and every type of injustice.

Christopher J. H. Wright explains further, “As go’el, therefore, God will exert himself to whatever extent is necessary on their behalf for their protection or rescue.”  This is the mission of God; to extend His reach into all the Earth, to protect, to be Father and family champion for all people. It’s why Jesus came. It’s why He is the rescuer, the redeemer and the hope for the world. And He doesn’t stop there.

As God empowered Moses to participate with God as go’el redeemer, for the Israelite’s, by His Spirit, God empowers His followers to join Him in His global redemption project. The greatest commandments Jesus gave are found in John 13:34. He said to His disciples, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Today is as good as any to live like the redeemed. The reach of God extends to you and through you, fueled and powered by His Spirit, to protect, rescue, redeem and bring the hope of Jesus to your little corner of the world. There is no mountain too high, ocean to deep, political unrest too great, and division too wide for the love of Jesus to reach and redeem. There is a road that leads to the safety and protection of our creator and family champion and it’s found in the forgiveness, rescue and redemption only Jesus brings. He is the way, the truth and the life and he’s paved the road that leads to a holy dwelling of a good and loving God.

God doesn’t expect you or me to be the go’el redeemer of the daunting global issues we face today. Rest easy, that’s His job. He only asks we serve those around us, those in our spheres of influence, out of love, in the same manner He has loved us.

In a world questioning the goodness and presence of God, the actions and words of the redeemed, declare He is not only good, alive and well, He is with us in everything!

Follower and friend of Jesus, you are a family champion to your people so that they see and know the go’el who has been in hot pursuit to bring them home and to a life of flourishing designed for them. Love your people well today.

It’s in the Simple Things; Or is it?

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How clearly the sky reveals God’s glory!
How plainly it shows what he has done!–Psalm 19:1

It’s not uncommon for my son Justice, to wake up from his nightly slumber, clapping his hands and grinning at the start of a new day. From his crib, his baby browns scan his room, his whole face smiles as he glances from his toys to his pictures and room decor.

Throughout each day, he’s likely to dance with gusto to his favorite Motown hits playing in our home. While running around outside, he waves to helicopters flying overhead and behaves as a mocking bird when the crows perch themselves in the tree above, caw-cawing along with them. He flails his arms with excitement at the sight of food he so enjoys to eat. And he gets the giggles when it rains.

Recently I said to a friend, “It’s in the simple, everyday things Justice finds his greatest joy.”

And then it struck me like an Easter bonnet on a church lady.

Simple.

Are the birds, rain, the sun and moon, all creation, not to mention huge, heavy, metal objects that defy gravity and fly through the sky, simple? Or could it be I have lost the awe in such wonderful things?

I’ve come to realize it’s officially a sad day the moment I consider it simple the moon perfectly hanging in space or water falling from the sky in all shapes and forms.

Job also lost awe in the day-to-day acts of God. Granted, Job was in a much different situation than in my life, however, Gods response to Job is a response to us all.

Read what God once upon a time told Job:

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?

“Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for itand set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?

“Have you ever given orders to the morning,or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it? The earth takes shape like clay under a seal; its features stand out like those of a garment. The wicked are denied their light, and their upraised arm is broken.

“Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness? Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this.

“What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside? Can you take them to their places? Do you know the paths to their dwellings? Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years!

“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail, which I reserve for times of trouble, for days of war and battle? What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed, or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth? Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm, to water a land where no one lives, an uninhabited desert, to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass? Does the rain have a father? Who fathers the drops of dew? From whose womb comes the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens when the waters become hard as stone, when the surface of the deep is frozen?

“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades? Can you loosen Orion’s belt? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs? Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?

“Can you raise your voice to the clouds and cover yourself with a flood of water? Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’? Who gives the ibis wisdom or gives the rooster understanding? Who has the wisdom to count the clouds? Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens when the dust becomes hard and the clods of earth stick together?

“Do you hunt the prey for the lioness and satisfy the hunger of the lions when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in a thicket? Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food? –Job 38

If ever you’ve wondered if God can be a little sarcastic, well, now you know.

There is nothing simple at the beautiful and perfect order in which God creates and orchestrates day in and day out. All of which, I am convinced, is done so, so that we might see and know of His glory and His love for us.

For He is relentless in His pursuit of us and has done and will continue to do everything He possibly can to help us see Him and know Him in a real personal way. The sun rising each day, the bloom of a flower, the buzz of a bee hard at work, and all of creation is one such way God reveals a piece of who He is to us. He wants us to know Him, to trust Him, to find our strength, purpose, passion, all of who we are in Him.

Justice is correct in his morning hand clapping and applause and excitement with the beginning of a new day. And so once again, I learn from my baby, the love and joy that God Himself pours out on this momma. Each day I wake and breath, a miracle takes place. So tomorrow when I wake, I will applaud alongside my boy and together we will acknowledge and thank God for the miracle of our lives and all that is good around us.