Learning to Delight in the One who Delights in Me

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“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.” Psalm 37: 3-6

I used to read this passage and only have eyes for, “the Lord will give you the desires of your heart.”  How wonderful I thought. God wants to give me the desires of my heart! I seemed to subconsciously ignore the part about delighting in the Lord and trusting him. Details…details.

Before I had my son, I delighted in things like

  • a good sandwich
  • a well brewed cup of coffee
  • a leisurely walk on the beach
  • a pistachio chocolate bar
  • a mason jar full of freshly made juice
  • the feel of the southern California sun on my face

Now that I’m a mom, when I think about what I delight in, it’s my son every time. He brings me so much joy, I find myself singing silly songs to him and dancing as if I could with him. I wake up and think of him. I wonder what he’s doing throughout my days at work. I physically ache to see him and hold him when he’s not with me. My days are consumed with thoughts of him and joy filled interactions with my him.

One of my favorite passages in the bible is well known Zephaniah 3:17. “The Lord your God is with you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

God is with us. Not only with us, he calms us as we tread through uncertainty, fear, chaos, busyness, etc.. He loves us. On top of all of that, he absolutely rejoices in us so much so he bursts into song at the very thought of us! If I do this with my son, how much more does our Creator and Father delight in us?

Of the many theories of how the creation story played out, my favorite is the one that suggests God sang creation into being. What if God, in his overwhelming love for all his creation, sang all things into being? What if he delights in you and in me so much that he is ever present, ever caring, endlessly loving and rejoicing over us with song each and every day of our lives?

When we know we’re loved, it changes how we live. If anyone has ever affirmed you, applauded you, encouraged you, doesn’t it give you confidence to be comfortable in who you are, inspire you and motivate you to love and encourage others the way you’ve been loved and encouraged? Have you experienced this? I hope so!

My son has taught me what it is to delight. I’m awestruck when I consider how God delights in me. And I have a lot of learning to do when it comes to delighting in God. As I think of my son constantly, I’m reminded to meditate upon my Creator and giver of every good and perfect in my life.

David, a man coined as a one after the heart of God, delighted in God’s word. “I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.” Psalm 119:16

What if I delighted in Gods word the way I delight in my son and coffee? Just as I desire to bless my son with basic needs – food, clothes, shelter, etc. – I also desire to give him above and beyond what he needs, encouraging him to go after what he desires. I think it works the same with God. God longs for us to know him, to receive his gift of life through belief and acceptance of his Son Jesus and to bless us beyond what we could ever imagine. He truly delights in us in ways we will never fully comprehend. His love for us is overwhelming.

And so, thanks to learning what it means to delight from my son, I am learning how to delight in God, in his word, his ways and in his unwavering love.

What do you delight in? What causes you to burst into song at the very thought of it? Do you know how much God delights in you and rejoices over your life?

May you know how your Creator delights in you and may you find absolutely joy and delight in him today!

Stewardship and Justice: A Challenge for Christian Consumers

 

 

This article is a part of the November 2013 issue of the Lausanne Global Analysis. Access other articles from this issue or download the full issue as a free PDF download

Our homes, workplaces, shops and markets are full of items made from around the world. However, we do not often consider the individuals behind the making of what we buy. We in the consumer nations should be concerned with the welfare of those making the products we buy and thus ask ourselves questions such as:

  • As followers of Jesus Christ, how do we respond to others with humility, love, compassion and justice through the purchases we make?
  • Is stewardship limited to our 10% tithe to church or does it encompass 100% of all that we have?

Consuming affects others

Ken Wytsma, in Pursuing Justice said, “We live in an interconnected world. The way we consume directly affects the lived realities of other people, whether we want it to or not.”1

Because our world is global, we have an opportunity to care for others across borders and cultures through our everyday shopping. We can care for the poor simply by being aware of the conditions in which they work to make our goods and by making purchases that help those behind our products.

Chocolate and slavery

CNN’s Freedom Project has told the story of Abdul (then ten years old) who was trafficked across a border to work in the cocoa farms of Ivory Coast seven days a week as a child slave.2 Chocolate is a precious commodity and likely a household staple in many homes across Europe and America. In fact, Europeans and Americans consume most of the world’s chocolate.3 The question arises whether it is possible to consume chocolate and make a way for children like Abdul never to end up working as slaves.

Electronics and war

With the increase in demand over the past 15 years for electronics products, such as cell phones and computers, the need for coltan, the mineral used to make these devices, has increased dramatically. The largest mine of coltan is in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

With such a high demand for coltan, militia groups have been fighting for control of this highly valued resource for years. The current rebel group fighting for control of coltan is M23. In the past two years, the Rwandan-backed group is estimated to have made over 250 million dollars from the sale of coltan.

When asked to comment on the current situation in DRC, Ryan Mariden, a board member with Africa New Day said, “I have seen firsthand the horrific impact these militias have on the children of eastern DRC. One boy shared with me his story of capture at age ten and his life as a child soldier that spanned over five years before he was finally free. What these kids go through is so shocking – so deplorable, that I doubt we would see it in our worst horror movies in America. Awareness is key. The political background in all of this is complex to say the least. What is needed is amplified world awareness, a beaming spotlight straight on Congo that will make the situation simply impossible to ignore.”4

Stewardship and justice

Tithing a tenth of our income to God is one way to express gratitude and acknowledgment that all we have are blessings from him. However, we often do not consider how we spend the remaining 90% — which is also a stewardship issue:

  • In Money, Possessions, and Eternity, author Randy Alcorn writes, “The tithe was never a ceiling for giving, only a floor. It was a beginning point. The tithe was a demonstration of obedience. Voluntary offerings were a demonstration of love, joy and worship.”5
  • A deeper look at God’s heart for the poor reveals he is much more concerned with how we daily spend the 90% than he is with the 10% tithe (Amos 5:22-24, Is. 58, Mt. 23:23).

Choosing to spend our money in a way that cares for those making the products we buy aligns our hearts with God’s heart for justice. What concerns him ought to concern us. This is both obedience and worship, and it creates space to share the Gospel across borders and cultures.

The Cape Town Commitment puts it this way, “We support Christians whose particular missional calling is to environmental advocacy and action, as well as those committed to godly fulfillment of the mandate to provide for human welfare and needs by exercising responsible dominion and stewardship.”6

In addition, Ken Wystma writes, “My greatest frustration with consumerism is that it encourages selfishness while reinforcing the lie that happiness is found in consumption — the opposite to Jesus’ call to give our lives away. And paradoxically, rejecting the consumerism of our culture is the way to find our greatest joy. What if consumerism that plagues our churches — that plagues our hearts — could begin transforming into compassion?”

Just purchases

Organizations such as Trade as One and Food for the Hungry encourage consumers to spend in a way that extends compassion across borders. Followers of Jesus can participate in restoration work throughout the world and the redemption of land and people by making purchases that seek to care for others globally.

Trade as One offers a simple approach: “Our mission is to use fair trade to promote sustainable business and break cycles of poverty and dependency in the developing world. We all have a conscience. We want to make sure people get the chance to use it when they shop.”7

Trade as One has established partnerships with a number of accredited fair trade groups that work to create jobs for the impoverished in an effort to restore dignity and the ability to provide for family and community. Consumers can buy their everyday products and be guaranteed no one experiences injustice in the making of that product.

In relation to chocolate, Trade as One has partnered with Divine, an organization based in Ghana that not only provides honest work for the cocoa farmers, but also ensures the workers own a significant portion of the business and therefore have a voice in its growth and development in their community.8

By considering others when purchasing, consumers can continue to buy chocolate and help to create and sustain jobs for others. In this way, injustice will be prevented, a life of slavery avoided and a self-sustaining livelihood developed for families and communities around the world.

Additionally, there are practical steps consumers can take to help to slow the demand for coltan and help protect the Congolese people from unnecessary suffering:

  • Only buy new electronics when necessary.
  • Tell others about coltan and encourage them to learn more.
  • Contact leading electronics companies and urge them to be vigilant in legitimately purchasing coltan from the Congolese people and not ultimately from the militias.

Conclusion

Jesus is the hope of the world. He uses his Church to spread his good news of life and love for all of his creation. As his Church, we can participate in God’s plan for justice in an unjust world, simply by making purchases that care for others.

Wendy McMahan, Director of Church Engagement with Food for the Hungry, put it this way, “As Christians, it’s important that we honor God in every area of our lives. We can’t separate our tithes and offerings from the way we spend the rest of our income. In God’s eyes, our spending is critical to our discipleship. Food for the Hungry works with church partners in the Global North who develop deep relationships with vulnerable communities in the Global South. When a church forms that kind of relationship, they begin to see how the choices they make every day have an impact on people living in poverty around the globe. It’s a wake-up call to do justice–not only by giving more generously, but by spending more wisely.”9

Nathan George, founder of Trade as One, offers this concluding encouragement: “We offer a fair trade food subscription service that provides a quarterly box of various fairly traded food from around the world. We connect you to the producers behind the food and tell you why it’s important to consume that product ethically. There is hope! Each year, more and more people catch the vision of fair trade—that the poor can come out of poverty simply by the choices we make in the products we consume. Our spending does make a difference, and it’s when we realize this, and embrace it wholly in connection with our faith and God’s love for all people that we begin to see why it matters.”

If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. – 1 John 3:16-17

References:

1. Wytsma, Ken. Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live and Die for Bigger Things. Thomas Nelson, 2013.

2. See the CNN Freedom Project site for Abdul’s story and more on slavery in West Africa’s cocoa field.

3.See the International Cocoa Organization website for more information.

4.See the Africa New Day (AND) website for more information.

5. Alcorn, Randy. Money, Possessions, and Eternity. Tyndale House Publishers Inc. 2003.

6. The Cape Town Commitment. Part I, 7A, 2010.

7. See the Trade as One website for more information.

8. See Divine’s website for more information.

9. See the Food for the Hungry website for more information.

What is God’s Plan for Justice?

Have you ever stopped to pick up trash on the ground that you didn’t put there? Not long ago I was walking down a fairly busy street with cars zipping by and as I walked by a bus stop, I noticed a piece of paper lying in the grass nearby. My first reaction was to ignore it, after all, I didn’t put there so it wasn’t my problem. I walked on past the trash.

I didn’t get much further down the sidewalk before I changed my mind about the trash and went back to pick it up. What excuse did I possibly have when there was a trashcan conveniently located at the bus stop nearby making it easy to discard properly?

Picking up the trash and putting in the trashcan where it belonged was really no big whoop. I was however, surprised by how difficult it was for me to just pick it up to begin with. Why had I hesitated? What was I afraid of? Sheepishly I admit I feared mostly what people I didn’t even know zooming by would think of me if they saw. How often does fear lock your kneecaps and paralyze you from action in life? Have you ever hesitated to help someone in need out of fear?

Ken Wytsma, in his book, Pursuing Justice, says that justice is what ought to be. It’s what life was like before sin entered the world back in the Garden of Eden. Life in the garden was created in perfect order by God and all things worked together as they ought to. It was just. Justice is such a vital part of Gods character. Wytsma points out there are more than two thousand verses in the Bible directly related to justice. He goes on to say, “Justice is the hallmark of God, a distinctive and pure feature of His character that defines Him and His will for the world.”

King David writes, “Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.” In other words, justice is a big part of who God is. Psalm 45:6.

Gary Haugen, the founder of International Justice Missions, says that’s God’s plan for justice in the world is you and me. Yes you read that correctly. It’s us! And God does not have a backup plan. We are his plan for restoring and redeeming the world back to way he intended when all things were just and right. You can listen to a short video here of Haugen talking more on this.

I realize picking up trash on the ground is a teeny tiny example of the idea that we are God’s plan for justice in the world but what I like about it is it’s something we can all grasp. Trash should be thrown out in a trashcan. It should never be thrown on the ground. We all get that.

The same can be said about a number of hardships people face today. God never intended for children to be orphaned. He never intended for parents to bury their children. God never intended for children to be enslaved, trafficked or abused in any manner. And God never intended for his perfect and beautiful creation to be littered.

As unbelievable as it may sound at times, God’s plan to restore order the way he did intend is through us, his followers. In John 13:35 Jesus tells his followers, “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.”

People will know that God is good and loving when his people do good deeds and love others.

So whether you pick up a piece of trash that shouldn’t be there or you provide school supplies to a kid in need as a new school year begins, be encouraged because you are carrying out God’s plan for justice in the world.

“Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” Deuteronomy 16:20

*Originally posted on http://www.conversantlife.com dated Aug. 27, 2013

Slavery in America: The Year of Jubilee

On the way to church this morning, my mom and brother and I were talking about how our world would be so different today if we still practiced Jubilee. We talked about how great it would feel to have our debt wiped away and the opportunities we’d be given if only it were still practiced today.

Directly after the service, I ran into a friend of mine who I traveled with to Malawi a couple years ago. It’d been a few months since we’d run into each other. It was great to see him. He shared with us that he had been in our neck of the woods earlier in the week and had thought of me while nearby. He drew out the night and day differences between the area where I live and the area where we were attending church this morning. He asked, “Why aren’t we hanging out with the people who live in your neighborhood more?”

Every morning, I walk through my condo complex, onto the main street and walk about 5 minutes to my families’ house in order to borrow a car to drive to work. On my way, I walk under a freeway overpass, wearing my business work attire and carrying my lunch and my purse at my side. There are two homeless people living under that overpass, one on each side of the street. I walk briskly, hand tightly on the straps of my purse and lunch bag and I try not to inhale the urine stench lurking in the air. After about five minutes, I reach the car I borrow and drive off to work in one of Orange County’s wealthiest cities.

Last weekend I had a conversation with a woman named Cathy. Cathy and I are working on a blog about American Slavery and Prostitution for the Slavery in America series here on ConversantLife.com. Cathy defined social justice in a way that really made sense to me. Cathy said social justice is removing barriers. Every morning, this past week, I thought about that as I walked under the overpass holding my breath and clutching my purse. What are the barriers that exist for the people sleeping under this stinky overpass?

On the way home from church, we talked about all the privileges we have as Americans. We were driving in a car; there’s one privilege that sets us apart from so many in our world. We have wireless internet in our homes and multiple computers just among the three of us. We can turn any faucet on in our homes and be assured it will spout out water until we deem it enough and turn the faucet off.

We talked about Isaiah 58. In the first part of the chapter, the people are grumbling at God because they fast and don’t think God sees their efforts. They humble themselves but wonder if God notices. The footnote for this passage in my Archeological Study Bible says, they were going through the motions of religion – specifically fasting – for the same reason the pagans participated in their rituals: in an attempt to manipulate God to act in their favor.

God responds in verses 6-7 with his purpose and design for fasting; the kind of fasting that is pleasing and acceptable to God. He says this:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

After taking a delightful Sunday afternoon nap, I wanted to look at Isaiah 58 a bit further. I pulled out a favorite book of mine off my bookshelf and searched the scripture index for Isaiah 58. I didn’t realize until I opened up to page 300 that the author, Christopher J. H. Wright correlates Isaiah 58 to the Hebrew Jubilee tradition. He says this about Jubilee:

It [Jubilee] set a temporal limit on unjust social relations – they would not last forever. The jubilee brought hope for change. The Jubilee had two major thrusts: release/liberty, and return/restoration. That is, these economic terms of hope and longing for the future, and thus entered into prophetic eschatology.

You can’t talk about the year of Jubilee and loosening the chains of injustice without talking about Jesus. Jesus’ words in Luke 4:18-19 present us with a personal mission statement about what he set out to do in his earthly ministry. Jesus’ mission is exactly God’s mission found in Isaiah with the Jubilee. Check this out:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

Jesus is quoting Isaiah 61, which was strongly influenced by Jubilee concepts. Jesus fulfilled his Jubilee natured mission statement as proclaimed and enacted, spiritual and physical, for Israel and the nations, and in both present and eschatological terms.

There is another time where Jesus refers to Jubilee like actions when he encounters the Samaritan woman at the well. The woman talks about where she worships compared to where the Jews worship. She referred to worship as a place and Jesus replies to her by saying that true worshippers worship in both spirit and truth. Jesus says that God is spirit and therefore we must worship him in both spirit and in truth.

Going back to Isaiah 58, the kind of worship the people were practicing, was worship in a temple, one day a week. The kind of worship God desires is the kind that gets us out of the walls of our churches and into the communities where we live. God desires that we worship him by removing barriers that bind people in a state of bondage and oppression.

No matter where you live, you don’t have to go far to see injustice and people in great need. For my friend I saw at church today, he went about 15 miles. For me, I simply walk just a few minutes before I am approached with injustice.

I’ve been writing a lot lately on the problem of human trafficking in America. Human trafficking is a secondary problem of many deeply rooted problems of injustice. Human trafficking exists because in many places there is an absence of the rule of law that would serve to protect the poor and the vulnerable, most of who are women and children. It exists because there is a demand for sex by a people who are broken and searching for satisfaction that only God can bring. It exists because we are an ignorant people when it comes to how our food, clothing and cell phones are made and distributed to us. It exists because kids are fleeing broken homes and ending up in the arms of strangers who take advantage of them. It exists because America’s immigration system is so screwed up and people so desperate for a better life that many end up in dangerous situations and in corrupt hands. And is exists because people like me walk right by need daily, holding our breath from the raw stench and dirt, ignoring the problems that lay awake in our backyards in this country.

Isaiah 58 ends with powerful promises made by the Lord for those who choose to leave the comfort of their church pew and worship him in spirit and in truth. He says your light will rise in the darkness; your night will become like noonday. He will always guide you, you will be satisfied in the midst of great need and you will be known. You will be like a well-watered garden; like a spring whose waters never fail. You will rebuild and will be called repairer of broken walls, restorer of streets with dwellings. You will find your joy in the Lord.

This human trafficking problem is much bigger than I first thought it would be. The ways of the Lord are much mightier still! Our hope is found in Jesus, the one who releases and restores! May we be people who practice Jubilee today, beginning with me.

*Originally posted as part of a series on Slavery in America posted on http://www.conversantlife.com

When our Hearts Align with Gods

At 6,000 feet high, seated in a single engine Cessna next to my husband at the controls, my mind ran a marathon of thoughts about what it means to be concerned with what concerns the ones I love. As we flew along the beautiful coast line of California, making our way from the sandy beaches of Orange County to the coastal cliffs, rolling hills and mountains of Big Sur, I realized that I would have never agreed to sit in a teeny-tiny airplane for those 3 hours if it wasn’t my husband doing the flying.

Before I met my husband, I couldn’t tell you the difference between planes other than some are big and some are small; some are painted cool colors and designs and some not so much. That changed quickly though as I fell in love with my husband because he is passionate about flying. It’s true isn’t it that what concerns the ones we love concerns us? After years of learning about the aviation industry from my husband I can now identify types of planes by their details like the way the wings tip or by how many wheels they have.

Similarly, when one draws close to the heart of God, their heart begins to line up with Gods and beat in the same rhythm and for the same purpose.

To buy, sell and so violently abuse a fellow human is one of the greatest evils of our time. To oppress and enslave a child of God is to strip them from the very intent God designed for them, namely, dignity, value and free will. Modern day slavery is so horrific, so deplorable and dark, it is painful to see, acknowledge, and talk about. It’s much easier to ignore it and go about our own business.

A funny thing takes place however, the closer you become with God. Suddenly, what concerns him, concerns you too. Isaiah 58 is such a great illustration of this because God basically hand delivers a neon sign of what’s important to him and what ought to concern us.

This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, God will answer. You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’ (Is. 58:6-9, The Message).

Breaking chains of injustice, fighting exploitation, freeing the oppressed, canceling debts, sharing food, clothes and inviting the homeless into your home is scary and not at all easy. And it is the business of our God and the work he invites us into. Why? Because it is by our love that others will know that God is a good and loving God. As we align our hearts with his, we’ll fall into step with his steps and he will bless us beyond what we could ever imagine. Just look at the end of the passage above. Our lives will radically change and he will always be with us; always.

And we will find the courage to fight for freedom for those enslaved, care for and walk besides survivors of abuse as they move towards healing and restoration and we will befriend our local homeless with love and compassion. There will absolutely be unknowns when we seek God and his justice. We may even find ourselves 6,000 feet up doing what we never thought we’d have the courage to do, yet feeling absolutely safe and assured of the One in the pilot seat.

*Originally posted on http://www.conversantlife.com dated July 31, 2013