Advent Conspiracy emphasis. We've tried to turn the cultural tide away from the consumerist extravaganza that Christmas has become back to what Christmas was supposed to be. We've learned about how to worship fully, to spend less, and to give more. Today we wrapped it up with the hardest - "Love All."
Everyone I have ever known has challenges in this area. Most have exclusionary lists of people who they do not love the way God would have us love. The barriers to that may be racial, cultural, ethnic, any number of reasons or no real reason at all. And yet to fully understand what God did in Jesus - to fully become what God would have us be - we have to learn to love as Jesus loved. We have to Love ALL.
This year those of us who make up the family known as New Hope have had many opportunities to learn just that. We've turned our attention to areas of the world and people who live there that we never really focused on before. The least of these. They are mostly black and poor. Many are infected with HIV and will die without divine intervention. Well, guess what - we're God's chosen instrument. It was okay to read about what was going on in Africa until we saw the faces of those in peril - until we read and heard the stories.
Now we know. Now we have to decide whether we are truly followers of Jesus or whether we are his fair weather disciples. There's no way to sugar coat it or explain it away. Are there people right here who are in need? Absolutely. In fact I'm so proud of how New Hope has given to our neighbors here this year. We've served at area events. We've collected school supplies for local schools. We've given out food from our pantry on numerous occasions. And just recently we've supplied Thanksgiving and Christmas meals and provided toys for 21 children in Valparaiso. There's probably more that I don't remember or know about.
And then we sent some of our youth and adults to Kentucky again this year to spend a week serving the people in that impoverished area.
But this year, it has been the orphan and those with HIV in the third world that has gotten much of our attention. I knew going in that there would be some "push-back" from some and a tepid buy in from others. "Why don't we focus on helping our own?" was something I heard second hand earlier in the year.
First, there is no "our own" in Jesus Christ. When we decide to follow Christ we give up forever our right to choose who we will love. We have to love ALL. That "who is my neighbor?" stuff went out when Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. Luke 10 - look it up.
And second - Think about it this way. You drive up to a row of three houses inhabited by three families. The first home needs a new roof. The second home is being broken into. The third home is on fire. Now all three are in peril. If the roof is not fixed when the rains come damage can occur. In the second case the robbers could decide to cause bodily harm and not just rob the people inside. But the third home is on fire with people in it. There's no question that unless help comes quickly, THEY WILL DIE.
The statistics on deaths among children from starvation, from contaminated water, from malaria, from HIV left untreated are horrible. Those areas are on fire. We have to get help to them as fast as we can. We'll get help to the others as well, but this is a no brainer. 147 MILLION orphans need families.
Are you okay with 25,000 people dying each day from malnutrition and starvation?
Are you okay with a child dying every 21 seconds from the effects of contaminated water?
Are you okay with those 147 million orphans growing up without homes?
Are you okay that many will die without knowing the love of Jesus?
New Hope has said - No We Are NOT OKAY WITH IT
So today that was our focus. To look into the Scripture and redefine love the way that God would have us view it. To come away committed to Love All. I didn't do the best job of presenting it but I hope God used it for His glory.
The songs were: Here I Am To Worship
The First Noel
Joy To the World
O Come All Ye Faithful
Offering (Christmas version)
My fervent hope is that 2010 is the year New Hope sends people to help and to build lasting relationships with those on need.
Had a great Christmas fellowship after and the New Hope family were very generous in their Christmas gifts and words of appreciation. Bunny and I are blessed to serve them.